As Britain emerges blinking into the light of normality after a horrendous year, so do the sports charities who carry out their important and often unseen work.
After the journey through a tunnel that has been long and dark, that light is brighter for some than others. A year ago, at the height of uncertainty and anxiety, Sportsmail highlighted two such organisations who were viewing the future with understandable trepidation: Capital Kids Cricket and Path To Success.
The former promotes the national summer sport among inner city schools, the latter exists to channel funding mostly into female wheelchair athletes, particularly in racket sports and basketball.
Australian spin legend Shane Warne pictured at the launch of Capital Kids Cricket in 2006
Twelve months on they have different stories to tell. Capital Kids Cricket feel that they are emerging with their operation — if not their financial reserves — very much intact, while Path To Success are still meeting severe challenges.
According to a survey by Pro Bono Economics, nearly 50 per cent of the broader sector saw a reduction in their revenues in the past month, although those connected with health tended to see increases. There are no specific figures yet for sport, say the Charities Commission, but for many it has been a very difficult year.
In the case of CKC it has not turned out as badly as they feared when we spoke to them with the outbreak in the UK at its first peak.
‘I was pretty worried if I’m honest but we have emerged solvent and in some ways we might be in a better position to go forward,’ says CKC co-founder and chairman Hayden Turner.
‘We had a decision to make in April last year and one option was to close down entirely. Instead, we decided to focus on a whole range of online activity, such as quizzes. We got some famous cricketers to do videos of them with a cricket ball in their hand which they would pass on and it really caught on.
‘We got people doing it from India to California and it produced quite a few donations, as did your article.
‘The Greater London Authority helped us because a lot of what we were doing was aimed at families who were locked up. It went well beyond cricket into areas like aerobics and cooking and we had our coaches help pack food parcels with around 3,000 being distributed.’
At the end of this month they are looking forward to two days of usage of the Getty Foundation’s picturesque ground at Worsley in Berkshire, which they have been donated. One will be for the kids to play, the other will be a corporate six-a-side competition as a fund-raising exercise.
‘We started going back into schools in April,’ reports Turner. ‘We are expecting the William Greaves Trophy (a huge competition they run among London primary schools) to recommence in June and hopefully the final will again be at Lord’s.
‘Although we have used up our reserves I am pretty confident about the future. We might actually end up being stronger.’
At Path To Success there is less optimism. Working on a different funding model and focusing on individual athletes, one of their key issues is that their annual gala dinner in London, which is the biggest income raiser, looks like having to be suspended for the second year running.
‘It has been very difficult,’ says planning director Nasim Malhotra. ‘There is some funding out there but it seems not for charities like us. We have survived by cutting costs and I took a big salary cut.
‘Our basketball players have just come back into training. One of the issues for wheelchairs is that the best places to play are indoors and there have been many restrictions on that.
‘You have to make sure the surface is good so it is not as easy on outdoor courts. But we are still hopeful that four or five of our athletes will go to the Paralympics.’
Anita Choudhrie, who founded the charity in 2005, pledged that she will try to keep it going but admitted they face multiple problems.
‘We have knocked on a lot of doors and had donations of things like on the nutrition side but money has been harder to come by because the charity sector has become very competitive,’ she says.
Path to Success helps athletes like Louise Hunt (left) and Lauren Jones (right)
‘The dinner is worth about £100,000 and is our biggest source of funding but that is not straightforward now with indoor restrictions. We did try some fundraising around Christmas but given the situation then it was not easy. A lot of businesses have just had to concentrate on surviving. We are reaching out to supporters but the future is uncertain right now. We would really like more Government support.’
It will be of little comfort that many across the wider sector are in a similar position. Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: ‘We may not know the scale or nature of the impact of Covid on the sector for months or years. But already it seems clear that individual charities have been affected in different ways.
‘Many have seen their funding reduce significantly as fundraising opportunities have been curtailed, and many have had to curtail or adapt their services due to restrictions. Some charities — notably those responding directly to the pandemic — have seen significant short-term increases in both their funding and to demand for their services.
‘We continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic closely, while helping charities to operate effectively and to continue to earn public trust and confidence in the way they go about their work.’