UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced the latest phase of funding as part of the government’s Sport Winter Survival Package, with women’s sport in particular set to benefit.
Football’s Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship will receive a combined £2.25m (€2.6m/$3.2m) of grant support for essential league costs, along with a proportion of 250,000 free COVID-19 testing kits being made available to elite sports. Women’s sport has been designated as a priority in the handing out of testing kits.
England Netball and the Netball Superleague will receive a total of £4.2m in grants, which have already helped the league begin its 2021 season on February 12.
British Basketball League clubs – including women’s teams – will receive £2.5m in grants and loans, with Basketball England to receive a £200,000 grant. Badminton England has also been awarded a grant worth £1.3m.
The government said the grant funding for England Netball, Basketball England and Badminton England is designed to cover “essential costs” to ensure the survival of the organisations.
The latest round of funding comes after the government announced in November a £300m cash injection for “major spectator sports” in England, with rugby union taking the lion’s share of the funding (£135m).
Following the latest announcement, Dowden said: “We are committed to helping our treasured sports through these challenging times. And today’s announcement is more evidence of our support for them.
“In particular, women’s sport has faced acute pressures. The past few years have seen fantastic progress – with greater participation, employment, commercial opportunities and visibility in the media. I am determined not to let it take a back seat again.
“This targeted funding will enable sports to keep playing and inspire many more stars of the future.”
The government also announced that an initial 19 clubs across Steps 1-2 of the men’s National League football system will be offered loan packages worth up to £5.4m. Discussions remain ongoing with other clubs across the system, and clubs in Step 1 will also receive free COVID-19 testing kits from the government.
This news comes after an announcement in January confirming that Steps 3-6 of the National League system would receive up to £10m to protect the immediate future of around 850 clubs over the winter period. A provisional £11m in low-interest, long-term loans was also offered to clubs in Step 1-2 and these teams are being assessed as quickly as possible.
A total of 250,000 testing kits are being made available to selected elite sports in need, due to the financial impact of testing on their ability to continue competitions as planned. As well as women’s football and National League Step 1 clubs, England Netball, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Rugby Football League (RFL) women’s competitions are in talks with the government to take delivery of testing kits.
“We promised to support our national sporting life when we had to postpone the return of fans,” said Dowden. “Once again, we are doing just that. These free testing kits will help ensure the health and safety of elite athletes in competition remains paramount and mean resources can be focused on protecting the future of sports as we recover from the pandemic.”