Asset transfers

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Asset transfers – a great way of developing community assets,  or a convenient way for local authorities to get rid of ramshackle facilities, or both?

Asset transfers of community buildings and sports facilities have taken place across the UK for a few years now. In many cases, they have gone well and a bunber of community groups and sports clubs now run their own facilities and can grow their impact in the community.

An example is Jesmond Swimming Pool in Newcastle which was one of the first sports facilities to be transferred to community ownership in 1992. Since then it has been an innovative award winning social enterprise.

Freed from the constraints of the bureaucracy of the local authority the management has developed an innovative and enterprising culture which is the envy of most other pool operators.

Jesmond Pool – a successful Community Asset Transfer

Community Asset Transfer (CAT) is the transfer of management and/or ownership of public land and buildings from its owner, usually, a local authority, to a community organisation, such as a social enterprise or sports club/trust, for less than market value – to achieve a local social, economic or environmental benefits.

In times of cuts to local authority funding, most Councils have had to either close down loss-making community facilities and sports centres and pitches or undertake a CAT, often to one, or several, of the tenants/users of the facility. So the tenant becomes a landlord, with all what the entails of challenges and opportunities.

So, in principle, this should all be good stuff – all part of The Third Way or The Big Society, depending on your political persuasion.

However, it has to be said that during our with community sports providers we have come across too many examples where we have experienced asset transfers being botched. This is partly due to incompence and less than fair and decent behaviour from local authorities and real lack of understanding of the challenges at many community sports clubs.

There are indeed a number of guides to CATs, including a brilliant one produced by the Scottish FA but we do wonder how many parties involved with asset transfers actually bother do reads these guides. Our straw poll certainly confirms that neither the Estate Manager at the Council or whoever else is involved with the asset transfer rarely do more than 2-3 asset transfers in their careers nor do the Secretary/Chair at the club do more than one asset transfer. So, it’s very much the blind leading the blind.

We have just seen a case where the Council did not issue the guide and criteria for evaluating the asset transfer bid until after the deadline. The people in charge at the Council were either on sick leave or on holiday so it was impossible to get any response for the bidders.

In the end, the asset has now been promised to a consortium of clubs which includes a club which has gone bust twice and is no longer affiliated to the appropriate governing body. When the relevant Director at the Council was queried about the soundness of the decision hand over the asset to a twice-bankrupt organisation the answer was that ”we should look forward, not backward’.

At the same time, we come across too many club committees who have not a real grasp of the business and enterprise aspects of running the facility, but just want to ensure that they still have a home, or so they think.

I was with one community sports club which was about to take other the two muddy pitches and an almost derelict club house. The only person on the commnittee who had seen the budget was the Treasurer who had produced the budget, so the club’s management was blissfully unaware of what they were taking on. Also, the club was not incorporated as a Community Interest Company or Charity or something else, so the committee members would all be personally liable for any debts incurred.

Until we got involved no one had pointed that out to the committee members.

So, unfortunately, many Councils are handing over facilities to clubs and groups which may not always have the necessary enterprise culture and skills which can lead to very unfortunate situations.

Are you ready? Is your club ready for asset transfer?

Whilst community asset transfer is a process in its own right, much of the work preparing for CAT is about capacity building your organisation in readiness. This means:
• Making sure you have the right people and skills leading and governing the organisation
• Having the right structure (type of organisation) and protection (legal structure)
• Understanding and managing the risks that come with running a group and managing a building
• Being able to show how a building will help (and not hinder) your organisation in achieving the positive changes for people which your organisation exists to help.
• Having enough money and having robust plans for continuing to have enough money to run your group, its activities and a building
• Having a written, useful plan of all of the above

Are you sure? Have you:

• Gathered evidence to show how the community and local people will benefit from the transfer?
• Gathered evidence of community support for the transfer?
• Checked that you understand Manchester City Council’s Asset Transfer Strategy and if there have been other Community Asset
• Transfers nearby from which you can learn?

• Checked that land and buildings in question really are assets and not liabilities – for example, they are liabilities if they cannot generate enough income to fund repairs, maintenance and ongoing operational costs?
• Considered whether asset transfer is the right option and the best option for your organisation?

So how can Councils improve the way they handle their assets transfers?

• Learn from others – failures and successes Be honest about own motives, culture and skills
• Get your plan and timeline sorted from the outset
• Make sure the community clubs/groups do possess the appropriate enterprise culture and skills – if they don’t, signpost them to appropriate advice

If you would like to have a chat about Community Asset Transfer,  just get in touch. Svend Elkjaer

#MoreThanSport Academy Introductory Workshop Series

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A series of workshops introducing the core values of the #MoreThanSport Academy and providing practical examples of how to create positive environments that lead to positive experiences. Application is key, so all of our workshops are jargon free and packed with case studies and simple tools to help you put learning into practice.

House of Sport, 190 Great Dover St, London SE1 4YB


Are you engaging new audiences?


Welcoming environments for sport & physical activity


Friday 18th October 2019

9.30 am – 12.30 pm



Do you want to grow your great idea?


How to run your own sports enterprise


Friday 15th November 2019

9.30 am – 12.30 pm



Are you looking to achieve a wider purpose?

Partnering with the local community to achieve social outcomes


Friday 6th December 2019

9.30 am – 12.30 pm


Innovation is alive and kicking in community sport – are you?

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Innovation is alive and kicking in community sport – are you?

Ever since some rugby players in the USA more 100 years ago introduced the forward pass and thus set the foundation for what is now American Football have we seen regular innovations in sport and physical activity.

Some don’t really last, but most are ignored, or even ridiculed, by people within ‘The System’

Often these developments and innovations are not developed by people at the top, but by some ‘silly’ people out there in the communities who then take their initial wacky and make it come to life.

So, here are some examples I’ve come across. I am sure there are many others, and if you have an example, please let me know. Also, when you look at these cases, I want you to consider how you can introduce new thinking where you are…as they say ‘innovate of die’.

Mermaid swimming (or Mermaiding) is making a splash

Over the last few years, swimming wearing a mermaid tail has become indreasingly popular and there indeed a number of males doing it, called Mermen.

You have to be a relatively skilled swimmer to be allowed to put on the tail, which, apparently gives you feeling of freedom in the water
Last September saw the first Merlympics being held in Dorset
Some public pools do not allow swimming with a mermaid tail is due to safety regulations, whereas others positively encourage it and offer Mermaid Experiences and Parties. One of those is community-owned Jesmond Pool

Being a mermaid is apparently a cross between free diving and synchronised swimming – with your feet strapped together

Hobbyhorsing: what girls everywhere can learn from the Finnish craze

In Finland, the beginnings of the modern popularity of hobbyhorsing among young girls stands as something of a mystery, though it is known that for some while the community flourished secretly online. Today, there are not just practitioners but coaches, competitions, judges.

Enthusiasts assign their horses names, breeds and genders, and along the usual displays of cantering, trotting and galloping, meetings will cover everything from in-depth discussions of grooming, bloodlines, temperament, and, on at least one occasion, a two-part dressage routine choreographed to a song by the rapper Nelly.

The 8th Finnish National Championships were held in June with 400 participants and 2500 spectators and you can watch a brief video here

If this seems an unlikely pursuit for pubescent girls in an age of Snapchat and Fortnite, it’s worth considering that hobbyhorsing is on the rise, having already spread to Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands.

Harry Potter inspires new fast-growing sport, Quidditch

The sport inspired by Harry Potter’s wizarding game continues to evolve worldwide with 40,000 players in 25 countries
Twenty-five years ago the word quidditch barely existed in the English language. Today, not only is this term instantly-recognisable to legions of Harry Potter fans as the primary sport in J K Rowling’s wizarding world, but it has also evolved into a real-life, international sporting activity.
Quidditch started out in the early 2000s as a sporting activity for American Potter-aficionados eager to recreate the magical broomstick competitions from their childhood tales. However, over the years the sport, which consists of athletes running around with a broom between their legs, has become a popular game among students and Potter enthusiasts alike.

The game as a mix of handball, rugby and dodge ball, and has been stated that it’s “very community orientated” and “extremely inclusive”. One of the primary rules states that a team – consisting of 21 players but with only seven allowed on the pitch at any one time – can only have four people of one gender playing during the match. The rules are very complicated, but you can learn more here

There is now a Premier League in the UK, which has just added a number of European teams and their finals weekend takes place at the 20,000 seater AJ Bell Stadium in Salford 24th- 25th August.

Canicross sees human and dog leashed together for training runs and racing

Canicross is an an activity described simply as “running off-road with your dog”, although in reality there are many differences from just grabbing a lead and starting to jog. The most important distinction is that in canicross your dog runs in front and effectively pulls you along. This is possible because both of you wear a harness – your dog around its shoulders, you around your waist – and you’re attached together by a stretchy bungee cord. Also, you run on paths in greenspaces which places less pressure on the dogs’ paws.

The pace of Canicross doesn’t need to be fast and people of all ages and fitness levels can participate

So, this is all simple stuff. You decide whether you want to innovate and move forward or stay as you are and slide downwards.

Need a hand? Just get in touch.


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 Thriving handball clubs a cross England



England Handball launch bespoke enterprise mentoring and support programme for handball clubs in England

Sports Marketing Network to help English handball clubs to become vibrant, visible and viable

We have many great handball clubs in England and a great deal of those are keen to develop further into more sustainable community-based organisations
Handball in England is growing. Enterprising handball clubs can benefit from this and become real community handball enterprises and be #MoreThanAHandballClub 

Examples from other sports demonstrate that when clubs play a bigger role in their communities, and in people’s lives, they:

• attract more players and volunteers
• generate more income
• generally, have a much better future.

However, England Handball appreciates that for many aspiring clubs this development, exciting as it is, requires inspiration and support.
This is why we are announcing our new support and mentoring programme.
However, England Handball also appreciates that for many aspiring clubs this development, exciting as it is, requires inspiration and support.
This is why the governing body for handball in England, England Handball are announcing our new support and mentoring programme where handball clubs from across England are invited to benefit from participating in a 12-month programme where they can develop the skills and programmes which can help transform their clubs.

Stacey Andrews, National Partnerships Manager at England Handball

Stacey Andrews, said:

“We are delighted to have teamed up with Svend Elkjaer of Sports Marketing Network who will be delivering the support and mentoring programme. 

Following the positive response to his presentation at our 2018 club conference, England Handball has teamed up with Svend Elkjaer of Sports Marketing Network. Svend will be delivering the programme along with the England Handball partnerships team.
Svend has worked with community sports clubs across most sports across the UK and has a proven way of helping clubs to grow and become vibrant, visible and viable.

All handball clubs in England will be invited to apply to become involved with this 12-month programme, developing the skills and programmes to help transform, their clubs”, Stacey said.

She continued, “If selected, Svend will visit your club and run a workshop with as many people from the club as possible and help you identify your goals, opportunities and challenges. He will give you ideas and support on how to attract more players and volunteers, generate more income and become a bigger part of your community.

He will then work with you for 12 months, providing motivation and inspiration, and helping you overcome those unavoidable hurdles. Yes, there are always challenges, but most can be overcome”, ends Stacey Andrews.

This opportunity is only open to a small number of clubs. The selection process will be competitive. The clubs will be selected based on their desire and willingness to change and grow, and not on size or league position.

To apply to become part of a truly inspirational programme for handball clubs in England, complete and return the Application Form.

You are also welcome to send a video as your application, or to support it.

Just write why you want your club to be involved and about:

• your goals
• your challenges,
• your opportunities
• your skills
• your culture
• your capacity and capability
• what support are you looking for

To learn more about this programme contact Stacey Andrews on or Svend Elkjaer on or go to England Handball’s website

Community Sports Enterprise: what’s it all about?

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Let’s start with having a look at social enterprises:

According to the Social Enterprise Coalition, “social enterprises are business organisations that trade with a social purpose”. They are enterprises which are developed and constituted to fulfil a particular social or community purpose. Their profits are reinvested towards those social or community purposes, and they are normally owned and managed by the members of the community in question.

It is important to recognise that ‘social enterprise’ is not a legal term, but a business model; a culture and mindset, then a skill set and the legal structure could then be a Company Limited by Guarantee, a Community Interest Company or a Charity. Social enterprises don’t make money for the sake of making money, they make money in order to do good and sometimes in the process of doing good. There are five common characteristics for social enterprises which could be of great value to community sports clubs:

Social enterprises don’t make money for the sake of making money, they make money in order to do good and sometimes in the process of doing good.

There are five common characteristics for social enterprises which could be of great value to community sports clubs:


They are enterprise orientated (the focus is on developing a culture where customer service, business planning and innovation is at the forefront)


They are customer and community focused


Profit is NOT a ‘dirty’ word because when they make a profit, that profit is put back into the enterprise


They are liberated from other organisations’ policies, bureaucracy and procedures


They are recognised as entrepreneurial and dynamic

Where there’s a will, there’s skill… the challenge is how to add enterprise culture and business skills into our community sports clubs

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”                                                                                                                                                 Charles Darwin

So what is a Community Sports Enterprise?

In sports enterprise someone recognises a sports problem or opportunity and uses entrepreneurial principles to create, and manage a venture (internally or externally) to solve the problem and/or exploit the opportunity. Whereas a business entrepreneur measures return in profit, a community sports entrepreneur focuses on creating sports, social and community capital whilst producing a surplus (the four S model, see below).

The four S model –

the key to successful sports enterprise is to balance and optimise the four Ss

These four components must be completely interlinked if sports enterprise is to be successful.

In comparison, only on the odd occasion has traditional sports development focused on financial sustainability, yet somehow it has expected that somebody should stump up the funding for activities which are almost always free at point of delivery.

Therefore, a big challenge is to develop sports provision that users will want to pay for.

The Sports Club as a Community Sports Enterprise – the eight key strands

To be really successful, a CSE must focus on eight key strands and treat them with equal importance:

1. Vision and strategy – what are you for?

2. Develop strong leadership and management

3. Provide great sporting and consumer experiences

4. Be for the community

5. Be welcoming and vibrant

6. Engage and communicate better internally and externally

7. Generate income

8. Getting things done through people

Yes, I do appreciate that perhaps only the third strand ‘experience’ is directly sports-related, but this highlights a key point:

Community Sports Enterprises are really about getting away from a culture of ‘grant-addiction’, ‘sport for sport’s sake’ and ‘the way we do things around here’ and moving towards a community-focused and enterprising organisation which uses sport as a lever and at the same time helps community sports clubs to become, and stay, welcoming and sustainable.

Time to change our volunteer awards in community sport

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Time to change our volunteer awards in community sport


By Ian Sandbrook, Founder/Owner,
Sport for Good Consulting,
former Head of Participation, Cricket Scotland

I love volunteering. I champion it at every chance and believe wholeheartedly in the benefits of it, both for the sport, and the individual. Volunteers truly are the lifeblood of our sport. However, this is where I’m a bit controversial. We need to change our traditional way of recognising volunteers – the good old ‘Volunteer Awards’.

Sport for Good consulting exists to inspire, connect and support sport providers to become community sport enterprises: community-focussed, socially aware and customer-led.

They with sports associations and clubs to help make them relevant to their communities.

Based in New Zealand they cover both New Zealand and Australia

Don’t get me wrong, recognising the huge efforts of volunteers is crucial and awards functions are fantastic ways to celebrate the many outstanding contributions people make. I just think the award categories are unimaginative and even slightly counter-productive to encouraging new volunteers. Let me explain.

I used to run Volunteer Awards for many years in a previous job. They were well intentioned and we made the best efforts we could to recognise key volunteers. We had awards and categories like volunteer of the month, volunteer of the year, life-time service, coach of the year, official of the year etc. These are all very worthy categories and the people that were recognised no doubt appreciated it.

However, what I noticed after a number of years were some interesting trends:

• Many of the same volunteers were nominated each year
• Many of those nominated had given long-term service
• Often clubs were overly reliant on these individuals
• Generally, we always had to twist arms and chase clubs up to get them to nominate people

When I reflected on this, I just wasn’t comfortable with what we were doing. Not only was it not capturing the hearts and minds of the clubs we were trying to motivate, it wasn’t actually aligned to the club development approach I wanted to take. We were just doing it to tick a box and because it was the right thing to do.
Inadvertently, our awards were really set up to recognise the great club stalwart that had basically given their life to the club. Subliminally, we were sending out the message that to get the recognition you had to give up your life or simply be the best coach or official. How was that helping us encourage new volunteers in this day and age? Most people don’t have the time or the desire to do that but that shouldn’t mean their contribution is less worthy. We needed to celebrate the many small contributions that make a difference, as a way of encouraging a more healthy club environment and realistic approach to volunteering. Essentially, we wanted to encourage ‘bite-sized volunteering’.
Again, please don’t take this the wrong way. Those stalwarts are hugely important, still deserve to be recognised, and this isn’t meant to demean their outstanding contributions. I just believe it shouldn’t be the overall thrust of our approach if our priority is to try and attract more, and new, people to get involved.
In my opinion, the award categories we put in place should reflect the behaviours we want our clubs to demonstrate. Isn’t that the big picture reason for running volunteer awards?

So what are the behaviours we want clubs to embrace that will ultimately help them improve? How about how welcoming they are, how well they engage with their communities, ways they’ve generated new income, how they’ve engaged new people at the club etc.

Therefore, I made the decision with the support of a great mentor, Svend Elkjaer from Sports Marketing Network, to fundamentally change our awards from ‘Volunteer Awards’ to ‘Club Awards’, with the following categories:

• ‘Volunteer Awards to ‘Club Awards’
• Most Welcoming Club
• Best Use of Bite-sized Volunteers at a Club
• Most Innovative Income Generation at a Club
• Strongest Community Engagement by a Club
• Best Use of Social Media at a Club
• Biggest Change-Maker at a Club

These categories aligned with our club development approach, and crucially, to the behaviours we wanted clubs to start to demonstrate.

All the categories are still driven by volunteers but the focus was taken away from the individual and more focussed on the ‘team’ effort in improving aspects of the club.

The results were interesting. We had record numbers of nominations, we had new people and groups of people volunteering and being nominated, and we had clubs doing things they had never even thought of doing before. It challenged the clubs’ thinking, exactly what we were trying to achieve.

So let’s be a bit more thoughtful about our volunteer recognition.

Make people feel special and valued but have some method behind it.

Thriving Clubs programme is helping cricket clubs in Scotland to become more vibrant, visible and viable
This new award programme formed part of the Thriving Clubs programme that Ian Sandbrook launched when he was Head of Participation at Cricket Scotland, working with SMN.

The programme includes:

• staff development, training by SMN
• SMN mentor support to the most aspiring clubs
• Staff mentor to other clubs

• Grow Your ClubClub Workshops
• Webinars
• ‘How to’ Guides
• Best practice e-newsletters
• Club Awards
• #MoreThanCricket club conference

SMN are currently delivering a similar two-year programme for Football Association of Wales Trust and their 450-odd junior clubs and we are about to announce other clib enterprise programmes for sports bodies and leagues.