Schools Plus and Playfinder Secure Partnership to Increase Access to Sports Facilities, With Support From the Open Data Institute


Schools Plus and Playfinder have agreed to launch online bookings of their growing estate of schools for the first time. It involves a significant investment to upgrade Schools Plus’ software so that their sports facilities, from football pitches, netball courts to indoor sports halls, can be made available online to players across the UK.

The result of the partnership will provide an estimated 50,000 more people with access to some of the best sports facilities in the country.

This partnership is supported in part by the ODI. In July 2020, the ODI awarded a joint tender of £15,000 to Playfinder and Schools Plus to test tooling developed as part of the OpenActive initiative. This helped fund the technical work needed for the two companies to integrate their software, and to open up over 70 schools for online bookings.

OpenActive is a community-led initiative backed by Sport England and stewarded by the ODI and ukactive. It has developed data standards and tools for the sport and physical activity sector to make it easier for sports facilities and activities to be discovered and booked online.



Tara Lee, Engagement Lead at the ODI, said: “We launched an invitation to tender last year as we recognised our responsibility during the challenges posed by COVID-19 to help organisations continue to contribute to the OpenActive mission and to help people stay active by making it easier to find and book activities online. We’re delighted that this tender has helped support Playfinder and Schools Plus to make more facilities more accessible to more people.”

Playfinder CEO Jamie Foale, “This partnership shows that making sport more accessible for everyone is possible if people work together. We are delighted to get the support from the ODI to catalyse the project, and I am grateful to the forward-thinking leadership at Schools Plus for seeing the opportunity. This project can have a huge effect on not just sports players looking to access these facilities, but also the schools who benefit from the additional bookings.”

Playfinder, the largest online sports booking company, aims to make it easier for everyone to play sport whilst increasing utilisation. Online bookings help schools fill spare capacity by advertising what slots are available to the local community, raising awareness of untapped local resources.

The partnership sees further investment into school facilities being made accessible by the local community and follows a £1.6m investment by the Department for Education in January 2020 to open up school facilities across the country.

Founded in 2004 with a mission to transform schools lettings into professional venue management, Schools Plus aims to increase income for venues while reducing the burden operational bookings can bring, which is where Playfinder can help by showing live availability on their online booking calendar.

Andrew Halliwell, Managing Director of Schools Plus, says, “We are greatly excited about making the transition to online bookings. It is a deal that strongly supports our mission, giving these schools an extra boost after the climate COVID-19 has left the industry in. The deal with Playfinder supported by the ODI will hopefully be a major turning point for the future of how schools can be better managed”.