Sports clubs, groups and organisations gain access to the facilities they use through different types of agreements. The type of agreement affects the security that they have to access these facilities in the future. Some organisations have ‘security of tenure’ for the site or facilities they use, others don’t.

This page explains what security of tenure means and how you can check if you have it. It also explores how security of tenure can impact your ability to secure lottery funding should you want to apply for support to improve your facilities.

What is security of tenure?

Security of tenure means having the legal right to use a particular piece of land or building either for a fixed period or permanently. An organisation only has security of tenure if they have a lease or a freehold for the property or grounds they use.

  • A lease is an agreement between your organisation and the owner of the property or grounds (freeholder) that your organisation uses. A lease will allow your organisation to use a designated piece of land and/or facilities for a fixed period, usually for a fee.
  • A freehold is when your organisation or its trustees (depending on your legal structure) owns the property or grounds you use outright and are listed as the freeholder with the Land Registry or on the deeds if they are unregistered.

What other types of agreements exist and do they offer security of tenure?

If your organisation does not have a lease or freehold for the land or facilities you use, you may have an alternative agreement in place to access them. The most common examples include:

  • Usage agreements – an agreement between an organisation and the land’s freeholder or leaseholder, allowing access at specific times and for specific purposes. This may be a formal written agreement or an informal agreement. It may or may not incur fees and can be easier to terminate than other types of agreement.
  • Hire agreements – an agreement between an organisation and the freeholder or leaseholder to use a facility for an agreed amount of time. A hire agreement will usually set out the costs of hire and any terms and conditions that the hiring organisation will need to adhere to.
  • Community Use Agreements (CUA) – an agreement usually between a community organisation and a school or education provider that make their sports facilities available to the wider community. A CUA is likely to set out hours of availability, management arrangements and pricing policies. Sport England has more information on CUAs here.
  • Licenses – an agreement, usually between the freeholder and a community organisation, for the non-exclusive use of land or facilities for a short period of time (usually between 6-12 months). The freeholder can provide licenses to other organisations for use of the same facility. Organisations are likely to pay a license fee as opposed to rent.
  • Sub-leases – an agreement that usually occurs between an organisation who holds the lease for a facility or piece of land, and a third-party organisation(s) who sub-lease all or part of the facility or land from them for a specified period. Sub-leases often have strict conditions around use and usually incur fees.

None of these types of agreements above provide security of tenure.

How do we know if we have a lease or freehold?

If you are unsure whether you have a lease or a freehold, ask around within your organisation and have a good look through any official paperwork you, your bank or solicitors might have.


If you own the freehold, you should have a document called a Title Deed (deed) for the land or building(s) in question. Deeds come in a variety of shapes and forms. Modern documents are often printed but older documents may be typed or even hand-written.

A deed will name your organisation or its trustees (depending on your legal structure) as the freeholders and should include a plan of the site with a boundary line to show the area included in your freehold. You may only have a hard copy of your document, but most deeds have been registered with the Land Registry and are available to view on the Land Registry website. If you only have a hard copy, it’s important to register the deed with the Land Registry online too.

Please note – if your Title Deed lists your Trustees as the freeholders, it’s important to check they are still alive and still involved with your organisation. If not, your documents will need to be updated.


Like deeds, lease documents can come in a variety of different formats and may be in the name of your organisation or its trustees. If you have a lease for 7 or more years, you may have access to documents via the Land Registry or you may just have a document from the freeholder. Your lease is likely to detail the terms and conditions of your use of the site or facility and is likely to include reference to:

  • The property name, address and postcode.
  • The rent you will pay and any rent reviews.
  • Any specific restrictions or expectations.  
  • Your responsibilities and those of the freeholder.
  • How long your lease is for and whether you have a break clause (the opportunity for you or the freeholder to terminate the lease before it expires).
  • Phrases like “exclusive possession”, “quiet enjoyment” or “peaceably hold”. “Exclusive possession” means your organisation can use the site to the exclusion of all others, including the freeholder, whilst the other two phrases mean your organisation can use the site without disturbance. If these phrases aren’t included in your document, you may have a different type of agreement such as a license, so this should be checked carefully.
  • A site and boundary map which identifies the area included in the agreement between you and the freeholder.

A number of these points may be present in other types of agreements that are not leases and do not offer security of tenure.

If you are not sure whether you hold a freehold, lease or another type of agreement, consider contacting the organisation or individual you have the agreement with or seek legal advice.

Click here to see what a freehold document might look like.

Click here to see what a site plan might look like.

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided for general information only. Sport England is not your adviser and any reliance you may place on this is at your own risk. Neither Sport England, nor any contributor to the content of this article, shall be responsible for any loss or damage of any kind, which may arise from your use of or reliance on this article. Care has been taken over the accuracy of the content of this article, but Sport England cannot guarantee that the information is up to date or reflects all relevant legal requirements. The information contained in this article is not organisation specific and may therefore not be suitable for your organisation or club. We recommend that you obtain professional specialist technical and legal advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of information.

Last modified: Thursday, 16 June 2022, 3:43 PM