Active Through Football

An exciting programme from Sport England, funded by The National Lottery and delivered by the Football Foundation.

Active Through Football

What we're trying to achieve?

Insight - Active Through Football
Insight - Active Through Football


Increased understanding of opportunities/barriers for target audience to play football, through community engagement

Community Ownership - Active Through Football
Community Ownership - Active Through Football

Community Ownership

Increased involvement of target audience in design and delivery of activities through ongoing community engagement.

Increased activity - Active Through Football
Increased activity - Active Through Football

Increased Activity

Increased activity levels in people aged 16+ from target audience through football.

Behaviour Change - Active Through Football
Behaviour Change - Active Through Football

Behaviour Change

Target audience sustain improved long-term physical activity habits through behaviour change.

Selecting the Places

Game Changer - Barnsley's Active Through Football project

In July 2020, we wrote to stakeholders across 50 local authority areas to make them aware of their opportunity to apply for Active Through Football investment.

To support our shortlisting, we created a strategic mapping tool that utilised deprivation, physical activity levels and socioeconomic group data to identify the highest concentrations of our target audiences across the country in each local authority area. 

This mapping provided us with a shortlist of 50 local authority areas spread across the
country where we wanted to engage stakeholders and share further details.

Following a competitive application process through to the summer of 2021, the decision was made that targeted revenue investment would initially be invested in 13 Places over the next five years, with an aim of tackling some of the inequalities that make certain communities less active than others. Given the quality of applications received, it was clear there was a need to deliver this work more widely and further investment was secured for an additional 12 Places to join the programme in Spring 2022.

Successful consortia from the following 25 Places are all now actively delivering their projects. Each consortium has an appointed lead organisation which is also shown below:

Shortlisted Area Lead Organisation
Barnsley Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Birmingham Aston Villa Foundation
Blackpool Blackpool FC Community Trust
Derby Community Action Derby
Enfield London Borough of Enfield
Gateshead Gateshead Council
Kingston upon Hull Hull City Council
Kirklees Huddersfield Town FC Foundation
Leeds Leeds United Foundation
Leicester Leicester City in the Community
Liverpool City Region Liverpool FA
Middlesbrough Middlesbrough FC Foundation
Newcastle  Newcastle City Council
Northumberland Northumberland County Council
Oldham Oldham Council
Plymouth Argyle Community Trust
Rotherham Rotherham United Community Sports Trust
Sheffield Sheffield United Community Foundation
Southampton Saints Foundation
Stockton-on-Tees North Riding FA
Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire FA
Sunderland Sunderland City Council
Tameside Active Tameside
Wakefield Wakefield Council
Wolverhampton Wolves Foundation


Working Together

The answer to tackling these inequalities doesn’t sit with one organisation! For the biggest impact to be achieved, we know that collaboration is key.

For that reason, shortlisted areas were challenged to establish a consortium made up of a broad range of organisations who cut across sectors and understand their audiences and communities, including local community organisations.

For those areas successful with their application, organisations are now working in partnership with one another to share their learning and expertise around the people and place they’re engaging. It is hoped that the membership base and structure will grow and develop organically with each project, supporting them to deliver against the programme outcomes.

Here is what some of our consortia think of the process so far:

We held a number of local conversations to gain insight for the application. The leadership was distributed across a number of partners and we gained some really good knowledge. This is the impact of a consortia approach.’ – Active Partnership

With cuts to funding it is impossible to work alone so working with the consortium members provides an opportunity to collectively make a difference.’ – CCO

There is a genuine commitment from key organisations. It does not appear to be a tokenistic approach from the consortium locally.  The work in gathering local insight and building community relations through the preparation of the application was impressive.’ – Educational Establishment

Having a diverse group from a variety of backgrounds and experience and looking at a bottom up approach rather than a top down. Allowing the project to be led by real people that it will have the greatest impact on.’ – Local Authority Sports Development Team

Engaging the community

The programme has adopted a ‘bottom up’ approach to working with communities. Our evidence shows that the best community projects are designed and delivered in partnership with the community, and communities are more likely to take part in activities and use facilities if they’ve been included in the development. That is why community engagement has been placed at the heart of this approach and used to inform all projects.

For us, community engagement is about talking, listening, and working with people to understand their needs and build relationships and trust. This should be an ongoing process that includes the community in the design and delivery of activities and facilities leading to a greater level of community ownership.

We’ve developed a Community Engagement Toolkit to support projects looking to work this way.

Here are some examples of the target audiences the projects are working with:

  • Young Mothers
  • People with a learning or physical disability
  • South East Asian Women aged 21-50
  • 16-29 year-olds who are unemployed
  • New and emerging communities
  • Pakistani men


Place-based approach

It’s in communities, and organisations within them, where the inequalities specific to that area can be best understood, and where the best prospects of tackling them lie.

Consortia members have identified a place or a small number in which they’ll work. A plan for the place will be implemented which focuses on working with the community to activate a range of key settings, predominantly through the delivery of recreational and informal small-sided football. Over time, the plan will support the development of a local workforce so communities can take on the delivery of activities long term and facilitate groups to self-organise, to support long term sustainability.

Stockton & Thornaby's Active Through Football project, 'Shape the Play'

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