Grassroots Sport Health

Humans of Grassroots Sport | Matthew Shaw

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Matthew ShawOur next latest Humans of Grassroots Sport story is a chat with SportEd’s Matt Shaw about how sport acts a the driving force for social change and providing long-term solutions to mental health issues and tackling societal disadvantages.

SportEd launched with a mission of helping community groups survive and to helping young people thrive.

We celebrated our tenth anniversary last year and in that period we have grown into one of the UK’s leading Sport for Development charities.

Every Sported member uses the power of sport and physical activity to help transform young lives and local communities across a range of Sport for Development outcomes, including health and wellbeing, crime and anti-social behaviour, education and employability, community cohesion and inequality in sports participation.

Sir Keith Mills GBE had the idea to set-up Sported after seeing first-hand how many smaller community sport groups were falling through the cracks of the traditional support networks and how they faced constant struggles with under-funding. It was while he was Deputy Chairman of LOCOG working towards the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games that he put £10m of his own money to get the charity off the ground.

Since then we have donated £3.2m in grants to grassroots sport groups and have developed a range of member services to help in areas such as business planning, fundraising and marketing – all of which are completely free of charge to community groups, as is our membership. We currently have over 300 volunteers which provide our members with much needed professional expertise. Our philosophy has always been to help the people on the ground, who understand the issues impacting their communities, to build long-term projects and clubs. We achieve this by offering our expertise and support in areas where a project is lacking. This can range from creating a business or marketing plan to helping with governance and fundraising – wherever we can provide assistance.

Sported Basketball PlayerOur experience is that these local organisations are brilliant at the delivery aspect, connections, idea generation and understanding their communities, but sometimes lack the business knowledge or simply don’t have the capacity to make it sustainable. We help them to lay the right foundations to help them realise their potential.

Community groups which are members of Sported can access up to three months of free business mentoring support from our volunteers, for whatever operational challenge required and have the opportunity to join from our various programmes and projects. Community groups and youth services have been hit particularly hard from public spending cuts. Some 600 youth centres have closed since 2012 and council funding for youth services has been cut  by almost two-thirds since 2008, so it’s vital that organisations like Sported exist so that these grassroots groups are able to access the help and support they need, and the communities they serve can continue to benefit from their vital work.

Women and girls is a big focus for us this year, with various programmes and projects. Our Engage Her project in Northern Ireland, funded by Sport NI and the Department for Communities, has just completed its third year.  Our Project51 programme, run in partnership with Women in Sport and funded by Comic Relief, focuses on tackling the gender stereotypes that persist in sport. And we have just launched our new Girls Unite programme to increase participation opportunities for women and girls.


Once these projects are up and running we work hard to ensure the groups can accurately track the impact they are having. Impact measurement not only gives them the quantitative evidence to use as leverage for fundraising, but helps build the overall evidence base for the effectiveness of sport for social change.

To find out more about becoming a free member or volunteer of Sported, please visit