Bridging the Gap

By Carl Konadu, Bridging the Gap Project Co-ordinator

“It’s about reaching those hardest – absolute hardest – to reach… They’re the ones with the most to gain, but who are excluded from physical activity all together.”

Wheels for Wellbeing


“We have no gang affiliation, we have no allegiances to anybody, we’re just a community. We are a team. We have a team ethic [that] runs right through the core of the gym.”

Moss Side Fire Station


“We’re in a position of influence and we don’t take it lightly. Everything we say or do they’re taking it in, they’re jotting it down, and ultimately we’re moulding who they’re going to be.”

Wythenshawe Kenpo Ju-jitsu (WKJA)


The above quotes give you a sense of why Sported’s members play such an important role in their communities.


We want the UK community sport system to be World-Class. We want young people from all walks of life to benefit from sport.


This is why we started Bridging the Gap – an action research project being funded by Sport England with the aim of being a catalyst for change in the community sport system.

The gap that exists is between the community sector and the established partner agencies which could be supporting them.


There’s a whole host of reasons why this gap exists. For a start, the majority of community groups rely on the time and generosity of volunteers (e.g. 85% of Sported’s 3,000+ membership have fewer than five paid members of staff), meaning they can deliver but, all too often, have little time and resources to do much else (including finding out about funding opportunities). Whilst many support agencies haven’t traditionally served these communities and therefore lack the knowledge, experience and networks to effectively reach and engage these groups.


New strategies from the government and Sport England highlight the need for physical activity and sport to be developed from grassroots up – targeting the most marginalised communities.


This is where Bridging the Gap comes in.



Through the research we are gaining a detailed understanding of the what constitutes this “gap” and, more importantly, what can be done to narrow it. The research is still ongoing and the full findings will be published next year, but here is a quick snapshot of what we are doing and what we’ve learnt so far…

What we did…

Qualitative one-to-one research

In the first round we visited and interviewed 30 Sported member groups working in the 30% most deprived areas of England (as measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation) to uncover their main operational challenges, the key [political, economic and social] issues impacting their work, and the areas where they need support most.


Group research (Local Learning Groups)

In round 2, we hosted events across England to bring together Sported members, our experienced volunteers and the Bridging the Gap team to network, share best practice, discuss challenges and identify priorities for the future.


Tailored support

Based on discussions with the member and using the Sported sustainability model (aka The Frisbee), Sported have offered tailored support to each club to enhance their capability to work with partners and access funding/resources.


Some early themes to emerge…

• These young people are hard to reach… unless you know how: “We don’t care where you’re from, what your background is, how much money you have.”


• Sport for Development is a conscious decision: “A lot of people don’t get what we do. We get a lot of funders saying ‘What are your exit routes? You don’t have clear exit routes so how do we know your project’s working?’ And we say ‘Well we don’t have exit routes. We’re a community and a family and you don’t exit people from communities and families, you keep them involved but you change their role.’ So it’s getting funders to understand that.”


• The committed leaders are the driving force behind these groups: “As long as I’m here and there’s breath in my lungs I’ll continue to pursue it and continue to deliver what I’m delivering on a daily basis, and it works.”

• These groups provide pathways and ownership for young people: “The kids feel as though they have taken ownership of the project, the kids have got involved, they want to take charge, they want to grow and develop.”


As mentioned, 2017 will see us publish a more comprehensive overview of the Bridging the Gap research findings. Look out for the following:

The Framework for Best Practice – following our in-depth interviews with our members we will be collating best practice to create a resource packed full of handy hints, tips, resources and guidance to help any community sport organisation improve their growth and sustainability.

The Blueprint for Engagement – we’ve spoken to both partner agencies and members about what needs to be improved so that we can better support groups in the most deprived communities. Using all of this research, we will create a resource that will help partner agencies further engage in these communities. With hints, tips and guidance on what to do and how to do it best.