This purpose focuses on advancing public participation in a sport that involves physical skill and physical exertion. It is not enough just to promote sport. The 2005 Act says that to be charitable, public participation in sport must be promoted and that the sport must involve physical skill and physical exertion. An organisation with this purpose must be able to demonstrate that it provides opportunities for a wide range of participants.
To be charitable, sport means an activity that must involve both physical skill and physical exertion.
Where there is doubt as to whether an activity is a sport, we may consider the following:
It is not essential to have answers to all of these questions and each case will be looked at individually. However, if the activity does not fit any of the above, then it is less likely that we would regard the activity as a sport.
Does it provide opportunities for public participation?
Organisations applying to become a charity with this purpose must be able to demonstrate that they provide sufficient opportunity for the public to take part. We will look at whether the organisation caters for a range of participants in terms of skill or ability, physical condition, age and sex. We recognise that many sports charities will have to limit the number of participants at any given time. We focus on how they encourage public participation.
We accept that competition is an inherent and motivating factor in many sports and that sports charities will strive to be successful. Where charities have activities aimed at elite or professional athletes, they must be able to show that these help to further public participation in sport and are part of a range of activities for people of all levels of ability, as explained above. Organisations that limit participation only to people with a certain level of ability are unlikely to be able to further this purpose.
In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Ways in which sports organisations can encourage people to take part include:
How people join or participate in a sports organisation is an important factor when we consider the organisation’s public benefit, and whether access to its activities is unduly restricted. Membership should be open and transparent. If people have to be recommended or take part in trials before they can join in, it is unlikely that there is opportunity for public participation.
Case 1: an organisation’s activities did not promote public participation in sport
An organisation linked to a professional football club applied to become a charity with the ‘advancement of public participation in sport’ as its purpose. Two broad areas of activity were proposed:
The participation in the youth teams was based on ability, subject to a contract with the professional football club, and only available to male players.
We decided that participation was not available to the public at large and we refused the application to become a charity.
Other examples of organisations which have applied for charitable status under this purpose but which have not satisfied the public participation requirement include:
Case 2: an organisation provided evidence that Yoga is a sport as defined by the 2005 Act
An organisation that promotes yoga applied to become a charity under this purpose.
Yoga is not universally accepted as a sport. However, the applicant submitted independent evidence that participation involves physical skill and exertion. They also advised us that Sport England recognises yoga as a sport, with the British Wheel of Yoga as the governing body.
We decided that the evidence supplied showed that yoga comes under the description of a sport in the 2005 Act. The application to become a charity was successful with the advancement of public participation in sport as one of the charitable purposes.
Case 3: an organisation demonstrated how its activities encouraged public participation
An organisation, which delivers a ‘Try Rugby’ community programme to all school children in a local area, applied to become a charity.
We had to decide if the organisation encouraged participation on an equal and inclusive basis. They told us that they organise ‘taster sessions’ for primary school children, interschool rugby festivals and weekly activities during the curriculum for all secondary pupils. For those wishing to participate more often, the organisation provides additional supervised sessions, mentoring and personal skills development.
The application to become a charity was successful.