The government has been criticised after ministers relaxed the rules that set out the minimum amount of outdoor space schools have to provide for team games.
For campaigners, the move is particularly baffling coming on the back of a hugely successful Olympic Games, which has placed Britain's sporting facilities in the spotlight.
The Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that a requirement for secondary schools in England to provide pitches ranging from 5,000 sq metres to 54,000 sq metres, depending on the number of pupils, had been dropped.
Instead, under new regulations laid in Parliament last month, schools will now simply have to provide "suitable outdoor space" for PE and for pupils to play outside.
The DfE said that removing "pages and pages" of bureaucratic regulations would make it easier and cheaper to provide the extra places for pupils the country needs.
But campaigners warned that the move could undermine the future provision of schools sports at a time when the country is looking to build on the success of Team GB in the London Olympics.
The Government is already under fire for allowing the sell-off of more than 20 school playing fields - despite a promise in the coalition agreement that they would be protected - and for dropping a target for state schools to provide at least two hours of PE a week.
Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, an umbrella organisation for sports bodies, told The Guardian that the old regulations had been a "key tool" in preventing playing fields being sold.
"Without a minimum requirement, the danger is that short-term expediency could jeopardise the ability of schools to deliver sport for future generations," he said.
"We're confident that the Education Funding Agency understands the need to require schools to retain a minimum playing field space because the previous requirements were one of the key tools for preventing the sale of land."
The DfE said that at some point over the next 12 months it would be publishing guidance with a formula setting out the minimum outside space schools would have to provide - although it had yet to consult on it.
A spokesman said: "These regulations set out for the first time that all schools must have access to suitable outdoor space for both formal PE lessons and for outdoor play.
"By removing pages and pages of bureaucratic restrictions we will make it easier and cheaper to provide the extra school places that this country needs so urgently.
"Our extremely strict rules on playing fields will stay firmly in place. This Government has only approved sales if the school has closed, has merged or if equal or better facilities are being put in their place.
"We will be consulting later this year on how the new guidelines should be implemented."
It is understood that the previous Labour government approved the sell off of more than 200 playing fields over 13 years.
And an estimated 10,000 were disposed of between 1979 and 1997.
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "This just shows how out of touch Michael Gove is.
"The Government has already sold off 21 playing fields - parents want reassurances that these changes won't allow more to be sold off.
"If we are to ensure the Olympic legacy, the Government must ensure that schools provide a decent amount of space for competitive sports and play."