Data from the Australian Sports Foundation this week that indicates many community sports clubs are facing extinction due to COVID-19 is concerning.
The mental and physical benefits of sporting organisations are well documented and in many communities, they are the sole social outlet for Tasmanians.
In the past decade as society has changed with seven-day trading and recreation taking a backwards step, many clubs and leagues unfortunately no longer exist. And plenty more before coronavirus struck were feeling the pinch of declining player numbers, competitiveness and increasing costs.
Growing problems that the Australian Sports Foundation's survey of more than 4000 organisations suggest have been accelerated with one-quarter (16,000) of Australia's 70,000 sports clubs "at risk of closure if funding support isn't provided within the next six months" with government social restriction measures already costing clubs an estimated $1.6 billion.
Other key findings include:
- 80 per cent of clubs reported declines in one or more revenue streams such as memberships, sponsorships, fundraising and events/hospitality.
- 91 per cent of small clubs recorded ongoing expenses such as utility bills, affiliation fees, maintenance and rent as stress.
- 93 per cent of all clubs lost money due to ongoing expenses coupled with the loss in revenue.
- 70 per cent of small clubs forecast a reduction in the number of participants due to loss of interest and/or concerns around health and hygiene.
- 43 per cent forecast a decline in volunteers.
The Gutwein government and Tasmanian councils have been brilliant in supporting business throughout the pandemic and the state government has several grant programs for clubs to seek support.
But it's going to take a collaborative effort between state and local government, leagues and clubs to ensure their survive.
Councils must consider measures such as waiving or significantly reducing charges for the use of their facilities for the next two to three years until financial certainty returns because without clubs facilities are useless.
Leagues must consider measures such as reducing affiliation fees and work with clubs on key areas of governance, while it will be incumbent on clubs to ensure they have checks and balances in place.
Clubs must also look at establishing five-to-10-year plans to ensure they cater for a broad range of members including juniors and women. Because those with just one team and no pathway will be the first cherries picked off by the COVID fallout.