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working with commercial sports providers to create value on your school site

3 January 2018

There are a number of commercial sports providers whose business model involves setting up facilities at school sites and then charging the public for their use. The most common example of this being five-a-side football facilities.

These arrangements can be of great benefit to schools, since they get the benefit of having new facilities provided to them at no cost; can use those facilities during school hours; and can sometimes even be entitled to a share of the turnover generated by public use.

Providers will usually wish to construct new facilities - often including a pavilion and changing facilities on the school site. The school will be permitted to use those facilities during school hours (and possibly at other times by agreement). The provider will be responsible for their maintenance and upkeep except for any damage caused by the school’s use.

What you should consider

Schools should carefully consider the proposed terms of the deal. For example, any share of turnover generated by the public’s use of the facilities or safeguarding issues. Often the provider will wish to be able to sell alcohol from the facilities and, as such, schools will want to ensure the sale of alcohol is limited to hours outside of the school day.

The legal arrangements usually involve an agreement for Lease, whereby the provider will be granted a lease (usually around 25 years) in the event they obtain planning permission for the development. Key things to watch for include:

  • ensuring the lease excludes security of tenure (so the provider has no legal right to a new lease at the end of the initial lease)
  • that the facilities will belong to the school at the end of the lease (if required by the school)
  • that no compensation is payable to the provider at the end of the lease
  • and that the provider complies with, and indemnifies the school against, all safeguarding obligations.

What you need to do

Schools will only be able to proceed with such proposals if they have obtained the relevant consents, such as from the landowner (often the local authority) and the Secretary of State for Education. The requirements for consent can vary depending on whether or not the school is an academy; the land involves playing fields; and on the terms of any lease that might be in place. Schools should not enter into any binding arrangements with a provider until all necessary consents have been obtained. Failure to do so could result in enforcement against the school.

Our team has extensive experience in relation to all types of property matters relating to schools, including disposals and acquisitions, leases, telecoms and substations, solar panels, boundary disputes, rights of way, access issues. Please feel free to contact us if you need any advice or assistance.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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