Sport England has launched a guide to help communities understand how to protect their local sports facilities.
Produced by Sporting Assets and Substance, it shows how new community rights can be applied to safeguard assets like sports pitches, halls or swimming pools. The principle of taking control of sports assets is to help the club grow, secure its future, and be more engaged with the community.
The interactive guide is aimed at supporters’ trusts, but also to help other community groups understand their community rights.
Based on a report by Dr Adam Brown from Substance and Tom Hall from Sporting Assets, the guide identifies seven stages:
Listing sports facilities as Assets of Community Value (ASV) can help protect them from developers by giving the local community the right to bid for them. Any community group with a connection to the asset can make the listing, as long as you can prove their local link, for example via the electoral roll.
Listing the sports facility as an ASV gives you the right to be told if it is going to be sold, or its ownership transferred, as well as giving you a period of time to bid for the asset if it is to be sold. The guide expands upon the process of defining an ASV, how to speak to the local authority, deciding who is best to apply and submitting the application.
If your local pitch, playing field, pool or hall is up for sale or being closed, initiating a Right to Bid can buy you time to put together a bid on behalf of the local community.
If a sports facility is successfully listed as an ASV and then put up for sale, any community group (e.g. a sports club) can trigger a Community Right to Bid. This gives the group six months to get the bid together. If it beats other bids, this could mean a deal to buy the asset – either a freehold or a lease of 25 years or longer.
The guide looks at the process of receiving notice of sale, what happens during that six month period, and what happens after that up to the exchange of contracts.
Community Asset Transfers (CATs) are a means by which local authorities can transfer the management and operation of facilities to community groups. They can sometimes transfer assets below market value, on the condition that the economic, social or environmental well-being of an area be improved.
It differs from the Community Right to Buy process in that there is no bidding process, and no need for the facility to be listed as an ASV.
CATs allow a change in ownership from public bodies to communities. These can range from freeholds, a license to occupy, or a lease. Community Asset Transfer tends to mean a lease of at least 25 years, or a freehold.
Despite the advantages of the CATs, they can also be complex and long processes, where you may need financial, legal, architectural and facility management expertise.
There are three other community rights that sports clubs can utilise to help develop community sports.
Community Right to Challenge – its purpose is to provide communities with an opportunity to bid to run local services if they feel they can manage them better. These services could include local parks, sports facilities and youth services.
Neighbourhood Plans – these can allow local communities to influence local developments affecting their lives and neighbourhoods. They can also reduce the need for planning permission for small, local developments.
Community Right to Build – a successful Community Right to Build Order can overcome the need for planning permission. However, any such development would have to be small, site specific and community-led. These must have the support of 50% or more of people who voted in a local referendum, meet national planning policies and fit in with other local authority plans.
This section looks at the various options of how to fund your bid, asset transfer or build.
Groups must have:
- The proposition. Be able to succinctly describe what you want to do, why, the benefits, and how to do it.
- The finance case. Be able to say how you will pay for the initial cost of the asset, such as purchasing it. This could be any combination of community shares, equity, donations, fundraising, crowdfunding, grants or loans.
- The business case. Provide a plan of how you will run the facility on a sound financial footing. The guide provides a toolkit and business plan template to help with this part, as well as details on the differences between grants, equity, and loans.
Whatever the undertaking, your club will most likely need to report on its performance and impact.
For example, if you’re listing an asset as an ASV, you need to identify that it furthers the social well-being of the community. If you’re undertaking a Community Asset Transfer, you will need to show that you are meeting the terms of the lease.
This measuring of impact is also true on the financial side. For all types of funding, you will need to demonstrate to those buying shares, loaning money or providing grants that you are meeting their conditions.
The final section lays out some of the organisations that can support your bid to take over the facility or asset. There is support available at all stages:
a) Support to help you explore the feasibility of pursuing any of these rights
b) Support in developing proposals, business plans, building your capacity and getting asset and funding ready
c) Support to help you get the finance you need. These are a mixture of advice resources, professional help, grants and loans.
- In order to view the guide, you must first register here.