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Leisure Media - The foundation of success

Tokyo Olympics

The foundation of success

GLL is best known for running leisure facilities on behalf of local authorities across the UK, but a lesser-known part of its remit is its GLL Sport Foundation which supports Olympic hopefuls. Liz Terry finds out more

Tokyo Olympic Gold medallists, Tom Daley and Matty Lee have been supported by the GLL Sport Foundation photo: Getty
BMXer, Charlotte Worthington, won gold in Tokyo photo: GLL Sports Foundation
Charlotte Worthington in action at the Tokyo Olympics photo: GLL Sports Foundation

As Team GB and Ireland’s Tokyo Olympic stars return home to rapturous welcomes from their local communities, UK’s largest independent athlete support programme, the GLL Sport Foundation, has also been celebrating its most successful Olympics to date.

Athletes currently supported by the Foundation beat the previous Olympic medal haul in Rio of 7 medals, winning 11 in Tokyo. That total rises to 17 when all athletes who have received support over the course of their careers are included.

The successes were such that if the Foundation were a country, it would sit in 14th place on the medal table for the Tokyo Games.

Among the GSF athletes who enjoyed success in Tokyo are divers Tom Daley and Matty Lee, BMX freestyler Charlotte Worthington and swimmer Tom Dean.

Dean, two-time Olympic gold medallist, said: “I’m proud to be supported by a Foundation that has helped so many talented athletes on their journey.”

About the Foundation
The Foundation backs 3,000 athletes every year – 97 per cent of whom receive no other funding or support – enabling them to continue their training in pursuit of their sporting dreams. The aim is not only to support the athletes, but also to inspire other young people in their local communities.

More than 60 per cent of recipients are under 21, meaning the organisation addresses a critical funding gap for young talented athletes who are competing at national and international levels.

Athlete awards cover Olympic, Paralympic, Deaflympic, Special Olympic and Commonwealth sporting disciplines. Once selected, athletes receive financial bursaries and free training memberships to the 260 leisure facilities across the GLL and partner-operated network. 

To deliver backing to athletes, the Foundation works in partnership with SportsAid to support the established national talent pathways of national governing bodies of sport, local authorities and local sports charities.

Since its launch in 2008, £12m of investment has seen a total of 50 medals won by competitors who received support from the Foundation for their Olympic preparation.

Foundation chair, Peter Bundey, said: “We’re proud to support so many talented athletes. They’re an inspiration and exemplify the true community spirit of our social enterprise.

“Customers who use our gyms, pools and leisure facilities can also be proud of the difference they’re making because their visits help support young athletes who are nurtured on their sporting journey in one of our pools, courts, tracks or gyms.

“It’s never been a better time for young people to get involved in sport for their fitness and wellbeing and GLL is working with sports partners and local authorities to make this a reality, with a wide offer of accessible sports and leisure in convenient locations across the country.”

About GLL
GLL, established in 1993, is a UK-based charitable social enterprise, operating 260 sport and leisure facilities across the UK in partnership with 42 local authorities. These include the London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena – London 2012 Olympic legacy venues.

Facilities operate under the consumer brand ‘Better’, offering personal fitness and wellbeing services, with gyms, pools, fitness classes, sports courts and pitches – indoors and out, providing training grounds for athletes who are heading to national and international competition. Better also runs family fun days at its lidos, trampoline parks and watersport centres.

As a charitable leisure social enterprise, GLL reinvests a proportion of its operating surpluses into grassroots sports development, concessions and impactful programmes through the Foundation.

GSF patron and Olympic champion, Sally Gunnell OBE, said: “It’s a fantastic achievement for the GLL Sport Foundation to have provided 63 Olympic athletes with support through their journey to Tokyo 2020.

“It’s a testament to the hard work athletes put in each day and highlights the impact the support of programmes such as this can have.”

More: www.gll.org

Fast facts: GLL Sport Foundation

● Patron is Olympian Sally Gunnell OBE

● 18,000 athlete awards made to 10,000 athletes since 2008

● £12m of financial support and in-kind sponsorship given

GLL Olympic results

GLL has supported athletes since 2008, medalling at three Games to date


• 33 London 2012 competitors
• 6 medals
• 20 London Paralympic competitors
• 8 medals


• 24 Rio 2016 competitors
• 6 medals
• 21 Rio 2016 Paralympic competitors
• 13 medals


• 63 Tokyo competitors
• 17 medals
• 40 Tokyo Paralympic competitors
• Medals not known at press date

Originally published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 8
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