Money Wellness
Two kids playing football
category iconcost of living
calendar icon14 Jun 2024

Supporting kids’ sporting dreams is a nightmare for hard-up families

The Euros and Olympic Games will undoubtedly inspire wannabe sports stars up and down the UK over the coming weeks.

But is it a level playing field when it comes to opportunities for kids to fulfil their sporting potential?

In a survey of parents with a total household income of less than £35,000 a year, whose kids take part in some form of extracurricular sport, over half (56%) said they struggle to cover the cost.

A third said they had to make cutbacks in other areas of their lives so their kids could participate.

One in five said they had to work overtime to cover the costs and one in ten admitted they had to limit how often they allow their children to attend classes or training.

The price of sporting success

Our survey found 40% of parents are spending between £20 and £50 a week on their kids' sporting endeavours.

A similar number (39%) said they stump up between £10 and £20.

And 10% revealed they shell out more than £50 a week.

Sebrina McCullough, our director of external relations, said:

“With the benefits of participating in sport well documented – from improved physical and mental health through to developing teamworking skills – it’s a crying shame that cost is proving a barrier to children from low-income families.

“We don’t think a lack of financial resources should prevent any child from reaching their full potential.

“Here at Money Wellness, we can help struggling families check they’re receiving all the benefits they’re entitled to and search for grants that might help relieve money worries.

“For those who are struggling to repay money they owe, we can also talk them through the range of help that’s available to deal with debt.

“It’s our mission to help people live more and stress less.”

Costliest sports revealed

Research by Money Pug in 2019 looked at the annual average training costs for different sports. The comparison website’s findings show, if you take your training seriously, there can also be a serious financial cost.

If you want to make it to the top of your sport, you’re typically looking at spending these amounts each year:

Football                           £620

Rugby                               £925

Hockey                             £1,175

Cricket                             £3,040

Tennis                               £12,017

Golf                                   £15,970

An Olympian obstacle

For budding Olympians out there, there appear to be similar issues. SportsAid’s most recent annual athlete survey, completed in June 2022, found that up-and-coming sports stars' key concerns were:

  • cost
  • the accessibility of sport

Talented athletes from a range of disciplines who received support from SportsAid in 2021-22 revealed that they’re finding it much more difficult to pay for their sport since the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted.

On average, the athletes revealed they spend £6,627 a year participating in their chosen sport.

Nearly half said travel costs were their biggest expense and 21% said financing their activity was one of the biggest challenges they face.

The vast majority of the athletes (92%) said they are passionate about promoting their chosen discipline and the issue they are most keen to highlight is the cost and accessibility of sport (60%).

The effect of the cost-of-living crisis on kids’ sporting activities

In April 2023, the Sport England Active Lives survey found that activity levels for children and young people had returned to pre-pandemic levels following the removal of restrictions.

But it also highlighted certain inequalities:

  • Boys are more active than girls.
  • Those from ethnic backgrounds are less likely to be active.
  • And those from poorer families are less likely to be active.

The high cost of living means people have less disposable income available to spend on extracurricular sporting activities for their kids.

Sport England’s latest (August 2023) activity check-in figures show 36% of adults are finding increases in the cost of living are hurting their ability to be active. People in the 30% most deprived areas are most affected. In many cases, this presumably extends to their children’s access to extracurricular sporting activity too.

Elsewhere, research by the Sport and Recreation Alliance in July 2022 revealed high energy costs are affecting paid and voluntary sports organisations, with a quarter of clubs experiencing financial difficulties.

Increased costs have also resulted in sports instructors having to increase class fees.

According to Sport England:

“Rising living costs have had a significant impact on England’s sport and physical activity landscape, affecting participants and providers, particularly disadvantaged groups.”

What help’s available for promising young athletes

If you demonstrate outstanding ability in a particular discipline, you may be able to get financial support through SportsAid’s Backing the Best scheme. This programme supports athletes who would struggle to progress without financial help.

As well as showing signs they have the potential to make it to the top, candidates also have to demonstrate that their financial situation means they might not get the chance to fulfil that potential without help.

The awards are worth up to £5,000 a year and can be spent on things like travel, medical bills and accommodation.

Sport England director Phil Smith said:

“Backing the Best has been designed to give a helping hand to those who need it – so that ability and attitude are the only criteria for success, and not money.

“Ultimately, we want our national teams to be truly representative of our country, rather than just those that can afford to reach the top.”

Giving kids a sporting chance

If your kids aren’t quite on the brink of stardom yet, there are other ways you may be able to reduce the cost of their sporting activities.

Financial assistance schemes

In 2023, Sport England helped over a thousand projects across the country with awards worth £10m+ and supported more through crowdfunding from people, businesses and groups who wanted to lend a hand to local community projects.

With the help of organisations like Sport England, clubs up and down the country are able to offer bursaries or financial assistance so kids can take part for free or a fraction of the usual cost. If there’s a club in your area your child is interesting in joining, ask if they offer help to youngsters from low-income families.

Cheap classes at your council leisure centre

It’s also worth checking out sessions and classes run by your local council. These are generally more affordable than those offered at private facilities. Your local authority’s website should have details of any low-cost activities on offer to kids.

Community sport hubs

Community sport hubs bring together different clubs and local partners who want to help people enjoy physical activity. It’s worth checking out if there’s one in your area, as they offer a low-cost way to participate in a range of disciplines.


There may also be grants available to help.

Maximising your income

And we can check if you’re claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to.

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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