Comic Relief launches “Ahead Of The Game: Sport And Mental Health” Funding Call

Deadline: 31 May 2019

Comic Relief has launched a funding call entitled “Ahead Of The Game: Sport And Mental Health” with two aims:

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  • Firstly, it aims to support new or existing work that combines sports based approaches with quality mental health support to reduce distress and/or improve mental wellbeing.
  • Secondly, it aims to contribute to the growing body of evidence by learning from projects about what approaches are effective for whom, in what contexts.

The fund will support work in the United Kingdom, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda.

Funding Information

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  • Applications are welcome for a minimum of £150,000 and a maximum of £450,000.
  • Funding is available for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years.

Target Audiences

  • Comic Relief aims to support projects that work with the most marginalised people, in the most disadvantaged communities.
  • In Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda, they understand that mental health problems may be more difficult to recognise and diagnose often as a result of stigma and discrimination as well as lower availability of and access to mental health services. They will therefore support the following in these countries:
  • Organisations to deliver sports based approaches in communities where they can demonstrate people are at high risk of developing mental health problems.
  • Organisations to deliver sports based approaches who are working with those already experiencing mental health problems.
  • In the UK they will focus on supporting organisations to use sports based approaches to support people who are already experiencing mental health problems, whether these are self-determined or diagnosed.

Project Design

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These principles apply to both the UK and international territories.

  • Focus on improving mental wellbeing and helping people function better
    • Due to the range of cultural limitations around the issues of mental health, the relevance of sport across a range of mental health problems and the underlying stigma often associated with it, the fund will focus on promoting the use of sports based approaches that support wellbeing, improve functioning and reduce distress. Organisations should consider the following components:
      • Social support: this is a person’s perception that they are cared for and that they know people who can help them. It’s an important component of wellbeing, and research has suggested that programmes that increase participants’ perception of social support are likely to be more successful in improving wellbeing and mental health.
      • Self-esteem: this is a person’s confidence in their own worth or abilities. Another important component of wellbeing, research suggested that physical activity can boost self-esteem by giving participants the sense that they had achieved something through participation. Improving skills can give participants a sense of mastery, and improved perceptions of their competence, physical skills and body image.
      • Addressing stigma: There is recognition that sport is likely to be a highly acceptable, non-stigmatising, route to improved mental health. The fund therefore encourage applicants to consider the role of sport in improving wellbeing where stigma is present. This is because while in some contexts a medical diagnostic label can be valuable to someone, for example in helping someone to find a community with shared experiences, in places where there is still high stigma around mental health problems this is much less likely to be true.
  • Ensure mental health is intentional, not incidental
    • The fund will prioritise organisations running programmes which combine sport or physical activities with specific therapeutic elements, and who have access to mental health expertise.
  • Sustained support for individuals and in communities
    • The fund will prioritise interventions which are embedded in local communities and which actively build local capacity and can demonstrate how they will continue once this funding finishes.
  • Quality and support of delivery staff
    • The quality of delivery staff is key to the effectiveness of the programme. The fund know that the relationships formed between participants and delivery staff is central to whether a programme has a positive impact on the mental health of participants. Because delivery staff are so central to successful programmes, it’s important to consider that delivery staff need to:
      • Understand the purpose of the programme and the needs of the participants
      • Be able to talk about their feelings with participants
      • Not have prejudices that affect their role
      • Understand that their role is about support
      • Be supported with their own wellbeing (e.g. through induction, regular supervision and annual reviews)
  • Partnerships and working collaboratively
    • The fund believes that projects developed and delivered in partnership with the people they aim to serve will be more effective in creating positive social change. Projects like this are more likely to respond to the priorities of the people they are trying to reach and be more able to identify appropriate solutions. Empowering participants to be part of the process can give them a sense of ownership of the project, helps build confidence and trust, and has the potential to strengthen community cohesion.
    • The fund encourage organisations to apply in partnership for this fund, particularly if applicants have identified a gap in expertise around either mental health or sport for change in their organisation

What will Fund

  • All projects must use sport as a tool for change in the approach. Comic Relief’s Sport for Change strategy aims to bring about positive social change for individuals and communities through the intentional use of sport and physical activity.
  • Projects must be delivered in the UK, Ghana, Rwanda or Uganda. Applications for work in more than one country will be considered, however the capacity of an organisation to manage the work will be assessed.
  • Comic Relief is happy to cover the full cost of delivering a service or project, so please take a full cost recovery approach to applicant’s application budget.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Proposals can be made by single applicants, or by organisations working in partnership.
  • Organisations can only submit one proposal as the lead organisation (though they can be named as partners on any number of applications).
  • The applicant must not have an annual income of less than £75,000 or more than £10 million.
  • The requested amount must be proportionate to the annual income of applicant’s organisation, and this will be looked at as part of the assessment process. Comic Relief aims to fund no more than 40% of organisation’s total income in any one year.

How to Apply

Applicants can apply for first stage via the given website.

For more information, please visit

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