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GiveToLocal pivots fast as community sport faces second lockdown

GiveToLocal has bolstered its growing reputation as an increasingly agile player in the community sport sector by readying a rapid response to England’s nationwide lockdown.

The North East based service works with thousands of community clubs across 15 sports throughout the UK.

And in response to the November 5 lockdown, staff are working around the clock to put into place an action plan that can directly impact clubs within days.

Earlier this week culture secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed that all grassroots sport outside school would be paused for a month.

And that clarification reaffirmed GiveToLocal’s belief that there is a need to pivot — and pivot fast.

“As soon as the new lockdown across England was confirmed we knew there was going to be an immediate impact on our clubs,” explains GiveToLocal CEO Neil Gardiner.

“Our management team met over the weekend and again on Monday to work out how we could deliver a rapid response.

“Within hours the wheels were in motion.

“We’re an organisation that prides itself on being proactive and we didn’t wait for the culture secretary’s confirmation that all community sport would shut down.

“We were already developing our action plan at that point.

“GiveToLocal is built to react quickly and effectively and our agile team is perfectly positioned to pivot.

“Plans are already in place to bring something new to the table that will allow teams across the UK to raise vital funds when they need them most.

“We’ve looked carefully at how we can change the way that we work to help communities right now — not in two weeks or two months.

“The shift in how we operate as a result of these changes will continue to benefit clubs in the long term and maximise the impact we have as we work towards building a sustainable future for all of our clubs.

“When the UK went into lockdown the first time we saw that as an opportunity to bring forward plans to support more sports, more teams and more clubs.

“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to react positively again this time.

“We’ll make an announcement later this week and we want community sport clubs everywhere to know that we can help them to look forward to a bright future.”

The start of this year’s first UK-wide lockdown prompted Neil and his team to launch the #InspiredToGive campaign and expand beyond grassroots football.

Seven months on and that bold move has impacted positively on thousands of players, parents, coaches and volunteers across 14 additional sports.

Last month the service launched its Focus Clubs initiative — working with carefully selected clubs to underline GiveToLocal’s ability to build a bright financial future.

However, Neil believes that additional support is needed immediately.

And GiveToLocal’s co-founder wants to reach out to clubs beyond the organisation’s existing network, as well as those already registered with the Tyneside-based service.

“We want to reach as many community clubs as possible in the next few days and weeks and the message is clear: ‘we’re here to help’,” adds Neil.

“What we’re proposing is something that’s simple, free and accessible to everyone.”

The new lockdown rules have far-reaching consequences for sport across the board.

Although elite sport has been allowed to continue behind closed doors it’s a far bleaker picture at grassroots level.

Many facilities, including gyms and pools, must close, along with other indoor and outdoor leisure centres.

“Unfortunately, we need to pause grassroots sport outside school to reduce the transmission risk from households mixing,” says Mr Dowden.

“As soon as we can resume this, we will.”

The Sports and Recreation Alliance, which represents UK national sports organisations including the FA and Rugby Football Union along with community sport, has warned the new measures may ‘prove to be the final nail in the coffin for a number of clubs’.

Chief executive Lisa Wainwright explains: “The closure of our facilities will once again place a financial burden on thousands of community clubs who are already reeling from the initial lockdown.

“And we fear that many may never reopen their doors without a comprehensive sports recovery fund provided by government.”

Neil is determined to harness the power of sport to spark positive change even in the face of a tough new challenge to communities across the UK.

“We’re in a position to help and we feel duty bound to use that position given the unique situation facing community sport,” he added.

“This is exactly why GiveToLocal is here. The support we can offer has never been more relevant and it’s important that we act right here, right now.”

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