SPORTS teams, groups and organisations impacted by Covid-19 restrictions are invited to apply for support from Sport England.

The £16.5million Return to Play Fund is part of the organisation's response to the crisis that now includes more than £220m of government and National Lottery funding.

Sport England chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth, said the fund would particularly focus on tackling inequalities in activity that have worsened over the last six months.

“A key priority for us has been to support our sector and all those who deliver sport and activity,” he added. “The disruption we’ve all experienced over the past few months has been unprecedented, with the ability to be active being just one way we’ve been affected, particularly at a time when keeping active and healthy has never been more important.

“With ever changing restrictions and measures being put in place throughout England, there is a continuing urgent need for us to try and support grassroots organisations to put in place the necessary support to safely get everyone active in local areas over the coming months.”

The fund, which opened for applications on Wednesday, is made up of three parts.

A £10million Small Grants fund will provide grants of between £300 and £10,000 to respond to the immediate challenges of returning to play in a Covid-19-safe environment.

This includes having the correct hygiene and safety equipment and giving training to club volunteers.

A £5million Community Asset Fund will provide grants ranging in value from £10,001 to £50,000, and will help clubs make improvements to buildings or open spaces for temporary use.

The £1.5million Active Together provides an alternative if clubs don;t meet the priority groups of the other packages, and will help set up campaigns to help sustain clubs through the crisis. Sport England said it will match crowd funds of up to £10,000 to help cover the loss of income.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said the new funding would make a big difference as winter approached.

He said: “Local clubs offer so much to their communities and it’s hugely important that we support them."