Your BMC: what are Sport England Tier 3 and Tier 1 relationships?

Posted by Peter Burnside on 16/05/2018

At this year’s BMC Annual General Meeting, we’re asking members to vote on some significant changes to the BMC’s constitution. Part of the discussion is the relationship between BMC and Sport England.

At the AGM on 16 June 2018, we’re asking members to vote on a proposed new constitution (our Articles of Association). This is the legal document which sets out what the BMC does and how it operates.

Following a wide-ranging organisational review in 2017, the BMC National Council agreed on 28 April to recommend a new constitution which complies with modern-day governance standards, clarifies our decision-making structures and ensures continued recognition as the umbrella body for climbing and mountaineering. This constitution, called ‘Option A’, allows the BMC to maintain its eligibility for Sport England Tier 3 funding.

A group of members have proposed an alternative new constitution, called ‘Option B’. This makes fewer changes to the current constitution, so the BMC would continue to operate much as it does today and would mean the BMC would no longer be eligible for Sport England Tier 3 funding. This would create uncertainties over the availability of grant funding for the BMC and our partner organisations.

What is Sport England?

The BMC has partnered with Sport England (previously called the Sports Council) for over 30 years. Sport England is a government organisation that aims to both increase participation in sport and support projects to keep people active for longer. Sport England’s focus is grassroots participation, whilst elite sport (such as the Olympics) is covered by UK Sport.

Sport England funds the BMC because it views it as the national body for climbing, walking and mountaineering, best placed to promote diversity, equality and support grassroots involvement. Sport England funding has helped a very wide range of BMC projects: youth, clubs and equity officers, support for hill walkers, affiliated clubs, club-member skills courses, the development of BMC TV, Summit articles, Summit online, and the members database.

What are Tier 1 and Tier 3?

There has been a lot of discussion about Tier 1 and Tier 3 relationships with Sport England, but why are these important?

Sport England has three ‘tiers’ of funded partner: Tiers 1 to 3. Tiers are used to decide the size of funding pots and the level of governance required from Sport England of the funded body. Every sporting body that seeks funding needs to comply with the arrangements outlined for their appropriate tier. The sporting body does not get to choose their tier level, it depends upon the level of funding they require and their status as a national body.

The tier decision for an organisation is dependent on a number of factors. These include: amount of funding; length of relationship with the partner; nature of the relationship with the partner and type of organisation. The amount of funding is one factor but certainly not the deciding factor. All of the National Governing Bodies who we’ve previously funded, and who we continue to fund, have been assessed as Tier 3 of the Code, regardless of their size or level of investment.

  • Paul Bickerton, Head of Partnership, Sport England in email to the BMC

Tier 1
Tier 1 is designed for small organisations, clubs or charities seeking money for specific projects with a total value of less than £250k. These projects have to be discrete and cannot be ongoing year-to-year. This money cannot be used to pay regular staff salaries or fund ongoing projects.

Tier 2
Tier 2 is a transition tier, designed for organisation stepping up towards Tier 3 compliance. Investments will be placed into Tier 2 when Sport England requires organisations to go further than the requirements in Tier 1, but not as far as full compliance with Tier 3. This might be because of their resources, or because the investment is significant but made on a one-off (rather than longer-term) basis. It could also be because the investment signals the start of a new strategic relationship with Sport England, but where the parameters of the relationship are still being established.       

Tier 3
Tier 3 is the top level of mandatory governance requirements. The requirements seek to ensure high governance standards because of the significant public investment being made. Sport England will look for a formal commitment from organisations to meet the requirements within set timescales and generally categorises an investment as Tier 3 if: the funding is spread over a period of years; the funding is granted for a continuing activity rather than a one-off project; and the total funding is greater than £1 million. Consideration will also be given to the size of the organisation. Organisations receiving funding for significant, medium to long term activity are generally in Tier 3. Sport England expects all national bodies to be Tier 3.

Why does the BMC need Tier 3 funding?

Unlike many national bodies, the BMC does not require Sport England funding to deliver all its work. However, Sport England funding currently provides around 20% of the BMC’s income including supports our hill walking work, our clubs officer and youth officer and for competitions.

However, a very important issue is that the BMC also acts as the umbrella body for whole-sport funding bids from Mountain Training, the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) and the ABC Training Trust. There is no current mechanism for national bodies to allow partners to receive money directly from Sport England. Therefore, if the BMC cannot meet the Tier 3 requirements, our partners’ funding will be at risk.

Which way forward?

The BMC organisational review and the subsequent implementation group have worked with Sport England to understand how best to build a continuing relationship that will still attract funding. Both parties recognise this funding may be subject to change, as Sport England wish that all organisations could be self-supporting in the long run.

However, this is not only about funding, it is also about ensuring the BMC is fit for purpose – both now and in the future. Tier 3 organisations have the highest level of governance (good governance means that good decisions are made by, and for, members; it’s not governance of the "sport" in terms of "rules").  The proposed new constitution will make clear the distinct roles of the National Council and the Board of Directors, so members will see faster decision making and more transparency on key work. As you can see, the BMC is having a very tricky time making those decisions at the moment, because it's not entirely clear in the current constitution who decides what.

The BMC National Council believes this does not come at the detriment of the members. In fact, if properly implemented in line with the spirit of the recommendations, it will be both beneficial and empowering. Continued government recognition of the BMC’s status as the umbrella body for mountaineering will also ensure that we can speak as a single voice, giving members the wider influence they expect.

The National Council, Board of Directors and the Organisational Review Group believe that retaining Tier-3 compliance is vital for members. It ensures that your organisation is run to the highest standard. This helps with our ability to attract funding, partners (both sporting and commercial) and retain a very strong relationship with government.

Which means that we can remain relevant by attracting new members from within our exciting and growing activities, we can work our very hardest for all our members, no matter what their passions, we can deliver our vital work – such as crag access, safety and training – and we can speak as one unified voice to keep our sport free of legislation and regulation.


Your AGM: Thanks for your vote!

This year's historic AGM had a record voting turnout, with 6,796 of those votes being made online. We want to thank everyone for having their say and helping to shape the future of the BMC. 

READ THE FULL REPORT: The BMC's historic 2018 AGM

Detailed info on the BMC AGM 2018

Find out more about the last AGM. It's a complicated topic, so start with this one:

READ: It's your BMC, and we need your vote

We were asking our members to vote on some significant changes to the BMC's constitution. Part of the discussion was the relationship between the BMC and Sport England. 

READ: What are Sport England Tier 3 and Tier 1 relationships?

There were two constitutions to vote for: Proposal A (as recommended by National Council) and Proposal B, proposed by a group of members. To learn more about the two proposals, you can read a detailed comparison written by BMC honorary solictor Martin Wragg.

READ: A comparison of alternative constitutions

How did the recommendations get decided? Read more about the process that lead to this stage, including the reports from the Organisational Review and more. 

READ: BMC Organisational Review reports

Watch the Open Forum debate

We held a debate in Manchester on 15 May for both options to be discussed. You can watch the livestream here:


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