Sporting Memories Network CIC and The Sporting Memories Foundation

We are creating a social collaborative movement using memories of sport to bring generations and communities together to support and help older people to age and live well. Through community based, volunteer led, multi-generational sporting memories activities, we are addressing three major challenges facing an ageing population – dementia, depression and loneliness.


  • From start: Yes
  • During process: Yes
  • In evaluation: Yes


  • Peer: Yes
  • Academic: Yes
  • PP Collaborative: Yes

Find out more

What We Did

We are creating a social collaborative movement using memories of sport to bring generations and communities together to support and help older people to age and live well. Through community based, volunteer led, multi-generational sporting memories activities, we are addressing three major challenges facing an ageing population – dementia, depression and loneliness.

We use a combination of structured, fully inclusive, weekly groups that are free of charge to attend. A love of sport is the only requirement of participants to attend, social situations or health problems are secondary. Activities are designed to promote cognition, communication, memory, vascular health, mental and physical wellbeing. This is achieved through a combination of reminiscence activities, the playing of accessible, age appropriate sports such as walking football, new age kurling and boccia and gentle exercises.

Whilst the groups may appear to an onlooker or participant as predominantly a ‘social’ activity, the groups lead to new friendships being made or old ones being rekindled, the building of peer support, participants being able to tell their stories, the breaking down of stigma around conditions such as dementia and depression and, through involving younger generations in the running of groups and activities, foster a greater understanding and trust between generations.

Wherever possible, we look to engage local schools, academies or universities in our area projects, giving younger people the knowledge of the issues faced by older people and the skills to facilitate reminiscence and accessible sports. Younger people are also trained to record participants’ stories, to help capture the history and heritage of sport in their communities.

Many of our volunteers are over the age of 50 and facilitate weekly groups. The volunteers receive full training and ongoing support and we expect to research and evaluate the impact on volunteering for the projects has on their physical and mental health.

In 2015 we also began work on developing digital sporting reminiscence resources for use on a one to one basis, for those unable to attend community based groups, due to mental or physical health issues or social situations. These resources are being trialled by clinical staff and volunteers in mental health units and general hospitals, housing associations and the voluntary sector in the North East of England.

We work in partnership with participants, carers, volunteers, councils, health and social care providers, professional sports teams, national governing bodies, universities, schools and other third sector providers. Central to all this work are the participants themselves with whom we have developed the approach, activities and resources.

To date we have worked with over 400 partner organisations and trained over 550 people in sports reminiscence and the sporting memories model.

Wider Support

In the last four years we have worked with over 400 organisations in the planning and delivery of local and regional projects across the UK, ensuring said partnerships embed the approach and engage in an approach which is sustainable and leads to innovative approaches to the activities and to the venues in which they are offered. projects/

We are working with an ever increasing number of academic institutions including the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University (we deliver an annual lecture to the international FIFA Masters programme on older people, sport and mental health there) and are about to become an official collaborative partner of the Health and Wellbeing faculty of Leeds Beckett University. We are also working with London School of Economics, Manchester Metropolitan University, Teesside University, Worcester University, Glasgow Caledonian University and Stirling University.

We continue media campaigns and projects to raise awareness of the network, which has resulted in hundreds of sports stars and celebrities sharing memories and endorsing the work.

Our latest major project is in partnership with the FA and National Football Museum to capture the nation’s memories of 1966 and to establish and sporting memories programme across health and social care in Greater Manchester, using the museum as a resource for training and for groups to visit the official 50th anniversary exhibition

In 2014 the network was voted Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative by the Alzheimer’s Society, listed as one of the Top 50 Radicals delivering solutions to challenges faced by society in Britain and voted Best Football Community Scheme at the Football Business Awards.


The activities are very much user led as they will only be effective if they tap into the fond memories of participants. Participants plan the group activities and physical activities and their responses and feedback guide our work and development. The approach is designed to allow participants to begin to tell their own story, through the power and passion of sport.

All staff and volunteers who are trained receive evaluation and feedback questionnaires and are also invited to participate in action learning sessions where ideas and progress, challenges and successes, innovation and opportunities are shared and captured.

Looking Back/Challenges Faced

Would change very little, would do it all over again!

Our main challenge has been funding. We are entirely self-funded and a small community interest company. Whilst gaining the support of many prestigious organisations and high profile people, securing funding has been tough. A number of grant bids did not succeed and it was only when the bid to Skills for Care was successful were we able to make progress. It was during and after the Leeds Care Homes project that we began to be approached by Councils and CCG’s who wished to commission local projects.

2015/16 proved to be a pivotal 12 months for us as our evidence base and evaluations grew and helped to secure commissions from CCG’s, Public Health teams and Health & Wellbeing boards, but also significant grants from Life Changes Trust (£450k over 3 years) in Scotland, Comic Relief (£150k) to develop digital products, Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund (£500K over 2 years) and the Heritage Lottery Fund grant to work with the FA and National Football Museum.

These grants were written with input and assistance from many of our skilled board of advisors, academic partners and through consultation with group participants.


The training guide and resources we supply to all those involved in the project have been designed to be used on a cascade training model. We ask that any organisation joining a project sends two staff to ensure learning has the best chance of being cascaded and that peer support in the organisation is immediately available. All our projects aim to give communities the knowledge and skills to embed this approach into how older people are supported wherever they may be living.


Our projects have been evaluated twice in studies by Dr Michael Clark of PRSSU, LSE. Our project with younger people, Sporting Memories; Uniting Generations was evaluated by Orla Cronin research, commissioned by Spirit of 2012 Trust. Our work in East Lothian was evaluated by NHS Scotland and we conducted a large evaluation of our services ‘in house’ to inform and provide evidence for, our bid to Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund


We have a network of projects who share learning across services and organisations. We have also promoted this learning through mental health and social care journal articles, press and media such as the links below


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