Sport for Change and Social Good – a different approach, not a separate sector

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Sport for Change and Social Good – a different approach, not a separate sector

A massive opportunity for community sport and physical activity to reach new groups and grow your impact.
Across the UK we are experiencing an increased focus on the wider role that sport and physical activity can play in our communities and our lives. In some quarters that approach is called for sport for social good, some call it sport for change and others call it sport for development. In the end, it is all about the wider benefits that sport and physical activity can bring to individual and communities.
Until now there has almost been a separate sector covering this work and in England, the Sport for Development Coalition and in Scotland the Sport for Change Network has been the ‘home’ of providers and funders sport for change/social good.
In particular, many of our governing bodies of sport and our community sports clubs have taken a sport for sport’s sake approach, believing that sport is living in splendid isolation from the rest of society. Increasingly, they are waking to the fact that if their sport and clubs are to prosper in a more connected world they will have to play a bigger role in people’s lives.
So, we are gradually getting away from two separate sectors, which is great and we are experiencing bodies such as Cricket Scotland and their #MoreThanCricket conference and the Football Association of Wales Trust and their #MoreThanAClub programme. Through our work here we have come across a number of community clubs which are growing because their engagement with people around goes way beyond just the sport, so both parties benefit.
How you then develop the Sport for Change and Social Good approach is something we cover at three one-day workshops which take place in Stirling on the 21st November, London (Ealing) on the 28th and Birmingham 30th November. For the full programme and booking details click here).

At these workshops, we will cover how to benefit from and how to implement a Sport for Change and Social Good approach. We will provide you with thoughts, tools and to-dos on how to develop and deliver initiatives which can make a real difference. We will also cover how to

  • build a team of committed, passionate and inspirational staff (and volunteers)
  • acquire an understanding of community and individual needs
  • develop the ability to work jointly with others
  • grow consistency and sustainability of the approach
  • develop a clear strategy and action plan for accessing funding
  • link with key priority areas such as community cohesion, playing a role in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, helping to improve education and employability, and health and wellbeing and other
  • build a sustainable organisation – building capacity, working with staff and volunteers, finances
  • develop the right an organisational structure – to ensure that quality of delivery is high and aligned to the desired outcomes
  • build evidence – how to align with outcomes and report against these effectively, providing guidance and tools for different settings, how to measure outcomes and not just outputs

All this will be provided in an engaging and interactive way, using jargon-free language and case-studies from                    sports and community organisations of                             ll shapes and sizes.

Who should attend this workshop:

This workshop is aimed at people who are involved with sports and physical activity organisations interested in developing sport for change and social good initiatives such as governing bodies of sports, Community Sports Hubs, Country Sports Partnerships, community sports trusts, sports clubs, leisure trusts, funding bodes, school sports partnerships and activators

People who are involved with community organisations interested in using sport and physical to engage with people and communities such as housing associations, Police, social enterprises, health and patient organisations, Local Authorities, voluntary organisations, funding bodies, NHS and Public Health

We look forward to hearing from you and to help develop a Sport for Change and Social Good approach

Community Sports Enterprise: what’s it all about?

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Let’s start with having a look at social enterprises:

According to the Social Enterprise Coalition, “social enterprises are business organisations that trade with a social purpose”. They are enterprises which are developed and constituted to fulfil a particular social or community purpose. Their profits are reinvested towards those social or community purposes, and they are normally owned and managed by the members of the community in question.

It is important to recognise that ‘social enterprise’ is not a legal term, but a business model; a culture and mindset, then a skill set and the legal structure could then be a Company Limited by Guarantee, a Community Interest Company or a Charity. Social enterprises don’t make money for the sake of making money, they make money in order to do good and sometimes in the process of doing good. There are five common characteristics for social enterprises which could be of great value to community sports clubs:

Social enterprises don’t make money for the sake of making money, they make money in order to do good and sometimes in the process of doing good.

There are five common characteristics for social enterprises which could be of great value to community sports clubs:


They are enterprise orientated (the focus is on developing a culture where customer service, business planning and innovation is at the forefront)


They are customer and community focused


Profit is NOT a ‘dirty’ word because when they make a profit, that profit is put back into the enterprise


They are liberated from other organisations’ policies, bureaucracy and procedures


They are recognised as entrepreneurial and dynamic

Where there’s a will, there’s skill… the challenge is how to add enterprise culture and business skills into our community sports clubs

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”                                                                                                                                                 Charles Darwin

So what is a Community Sports Enterprise?

In sports enterprise someone recognises a sports problem or opportunity and uses entrepreneurial principles to create, and manage a venture (internally or externally) to solve the problem and/or exploit the opportunity. Whereas a business entrepreneur measures return in profit, a community sports entrepreneur focuses on creating sports, social and community capital whilst producing a surplus (the four S model, see below).

The four S model –

the key to successful sports enterprise is to balance and optimise the four Ss

These four components must be completely interlinked if sports enterprise is to be successful.

In comparison, only on the odd occasion has traditional sports development focused on financial sustainability, yet somehow it has expected that somebody should stump up the funding for activities which are almost always free at point of delivery.

Therefore, a big challenge is to develop sports provision that users will want to pay for.

The Sports Club as a Community Sports Enterprise – the eight key strands

To be really successful, a CSE must focus on eight key strands and treat them with equal importance:

1. Vision and strategy – what are you for?

2. Develop strong leadership and management

3. Provide great sporting and consumer experiences

4. Be for the community

5. Be welcoming and vibrant

6. Engage and communicate better internally and externally

7. Generate income

8. Getting things done through people

Yes, I do appreciate that perhaps only the third strand ‘experience’ is directly sports-related, but this highlights a key point:

Community Sports Enterprises are really about getting away from a culture of ‘grant-addiction’, ‘sport for sport’s sake’ and ‘the way we do things around here’ and moving towards a community-focused and enterprising organisation which uses sport as a lever and at the same time helps community sports clubs to become, and stay, welcoming and sustainable.

Are you wise²

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Are you wise² 

Welcoming, Innovative, Community-focused, Engaging and Enterprising


Through Sports Marketing Network’s work and contacts with literally hundreds and hundreds of sports providers from across all sports and different types of organisations, we have identified five key factors which we believe are key to delivering enterprising and sustainable sport and leisure activities.

We don’t believe there are any material differences too between a professional sports club trying to develop support from its fans, a leisure centre wanting to increase usage, a community sports club wishing to attract and retain more members and volunteers or any other sports provider.

We all provide sport in different ways, for different people and in different places but nevertheless, we strongly suggest you focus on how you can be as WICE² as possible. Please view this through the eyes of the outside world and not how you and your mates within the club perceive it. (I am yet to find any sports organisation which does not regard itself as being ‘welcoming’ even though it may be full of Victor Meldrew look-a-likes!)

This is designed to help these clubs develop better practices in terms of how they follow the WICE² principles and become sustainable hubs for their communities.

It may not be rocket science but SMN is convinced that if our sports providers, over time, become more Welcoming, Innovative, Community-focused, Engaging and Enterprising then we can deliver better sport in a sustainable way.

A few words about the five elements of WICE²


Remember, you are in the Experience Industry, competing for people’s leisure time and spend. You, your coaches/instructors and the rest of your team must focus on providing the best sporting and customer experiences possible and remember: we are all different, so what you think is a great experience, may not be the same as a 26-year-old recreational player or a 42-year-old ‘returner’.

Help newcomers ease into the place, so the initial ‘like-first-day-at-school’ nerves disappear and they become advocates. Your best marketing tool is a customer who has just had a great experience at your club/centre.

So why not ask a few people who have never been in contact with your sports club and never been there to give you an objective view of how ‘welcoming’ they feel your club is. Of course, if you are happy with the status quo and just being for your members and don’t want all these new people in your club, I am terribly sorry I bothered you.


More than ever before people involved with sport and leisure are being asked to do more with less. It isn’t easy.

Many organisations are tackling this challenge with cost-cutting initiatives without really making any changes to the way they operate. What’s the net gain? Not much in the way of unique added value for your customers. At the same time too many people are too busy solving the everyday short-term problems that they ignore the important medium and long-term opportunities and therefore they rarely get ahead. With fewer resources available this then becomes a vicious circle. If you only come up with solutions when the problem is ‘blocking the road’ you will always be panicking and fire-fighting.

The trick is to spot practical opportunities everywhere in your organisation and to explore them. Some people and organisations/ in the sport and active leisure sector have been very successful in spotting and exploiting opportunities whereas others, often from within top-heavy, centralised organisations have found it very difficult to be innovative. Informal, commercial and self-organised sport and physical activity is growing because they listen to people’s lives and speak their language.



“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”

Albert Einstein



“A ship is safe in a harbour, but that’s not what ships are for”

William Shedd, US Theologian, 1820-94

Innovative organisations and people make mistakes and have failures. Analyse and learn. This also applies to your successes. Then you will gradually increase your success rate with your innovations.

Remember, the status quo is not an option.


The notion of ‘sport for sport’s sake’ which implies that sport sits in glorious isolation from the rest of the communities it is supposed to serve simply is no longer valid (I doubt it ever was).

Whenever I come across great sports providers they work for and with their communities, and as a consequence, both parties benefit. They are in reality Hubs for their Communities.

So how well are you connected to your community? The Police, the schools, the Womens’ Institute, the Sea Cadets, the faith groups etc. ? Do you know them and do they know you?

Draw up a list of your Community Connectors (people in official/unofficial roles within your community). Invite them to your place, show/tell them what you do, ask them about their needs and see if there are overlaps. Can you work together, benefitting both parties?

When you start planning your great income generating programme (see ‘Enterprising’ later) always try and link up with relevant, local community groups. Share the proceeds in return for their support, know-how and reach. Remember the old edict: the more thou giveth, the more thou shall receive.


It has never been easier (and less costly) for sports providers to engage and communicate with their audiences, using texts, emails and social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

More than 500.000 people have viewed one of the numerous videos with underwater hockey (Octopussy) on YouTube – demonstrating the potential for even lesser known sports (sorry, Octopussy) to spread the word and show the sport in action at almost no cost) apart from the camera.

If you are of a disposition or a generation which is a bit baffled by all this, get some of your younger digitally savvy people to do all this for you. This is also a brilliant way of keeping people in their late teens/early twenties engaged with your clu
b (the age with the highest dropout rate).

So you can cut the print budget and create that ‘online tribe’ where people feel they are part of your club, even when they are not there.


At SMN we encounter many great, enterprising people in community sport on a very regular basis.
Many of them succeed outside the established ‘sporting landscape’ and do not wait for a policy or edict coming down from on high. They go out there and develop some great community and sporting events and raise money (often very impressive amounts) in the process.

Just look at Tony Carlisle whose Doggie Walk in South Shields has raised £3.2m over 15 years; the guys at Blaydon Rugby Club who generate £90,000 every year from their weekly car boot sale; Mandy Young and her incredibly successful indoor skateboard and BMX centre, Adrenaline Alley in Corby; Simon Plumb and his great panto which raises £20,000+ every year at Lymm Rugby Club; the great people at St Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate who generate £150,000 every year from their Midnight Walk or Dennis Robbins and his remarkable transformation of Hunslet Club in Leeds.

These people just went out there and ‘seized the day’, and did not come up with plenty of reasons ‘why it would not work here’. You could and should do the same, wherever you are.

The days of the ‘grant addicts’ are well and truly over. The future belongs to Community Sports Entrepreneurs who provide great sport and community experiences in a welcoming and sustainable way

Sport for Change and Social Good Workshop


How you can change people’s lives through sport and physical activity
in a vibrant, visible and viable way


A series of workshops for professionals and volunteers held across the UK


Providing thoughts, tools and to-dos in an inspiring and effective way


21st November 2018
University of Stirling


22nd November 2018
Sheffield Institute of Sport

27th November 2018
University of South Wales, Treforest Campus

28th November 2018
Trailfinders Sports Club, Ealing

30th November 2018
Deal Cultural Centre, Ladywood

The 5 Is – how best to find, develop and deliver initiatives that make a real difference to your sports club

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The 5 Is

how best to find, develop and deliver initiatives that make a real difference to your sports club

1. Insight

Not all ideas work everywhere. There is a difference in demographics, rural or urban and your club’s reputation and reach to name a few, so be honest and objective in your assessment of what will work and not work for your club, in your area

2. Inspiration

So go out there and learn from others in similar situations to yourself. There are several good ideas in this guide and also by browsing the Internet you can pick up some great ideas and then you select a shortlist

3. Ideas

It is always dangerous just to have one single idea, as you can become too focused on that idea and push it through, regardless of its viability. But if you are curious and out and about you will have generated enough ideas to select from

4. Impact

Now assess the potential impact that each of your ideas can have ie how much money you can make, the number of new players or volunteers or…then, of course, go for the one(s) with the biggest impact. That may not, necessarily, be the one you like!

5. Implementation

All these great ideas are not worth much if you can’t implement them. I could organise a Danish smorgasbord at my rugby club because both my wife and I are from Denmark and mother-in-law came over to help out. Gala CC was very successful with their Ladies Lunches because of they a lady at the club which was very well-connected in the community

= Improvement
Immediately after your event, sit down and evaluate, in an honest and objective way. Tynemouth Cricket Club lost money on their first Bonfire Night. They learned from that, they improved and now it’s a major revenue earner for the club.

Introducing: the Community Sports Change Maker

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Help our sports club make a real change
We must help our community sports clubs play a bigger role in their communities

the Community Sports Change Maker

Many traditional community sports clubs are struggling to attract players and volunteers and to generate the income required to provide a really great experience at their club.

Certainly, in many of our team sports such as football, rugby league and union and cricket many clubs are experiencing dwindling numbers. (We understand that the number of clubs entered into the National Village Cricket Cup has gone from 700 to 300 in a few years).
At the same time, we are seeing and are indeed working with, a number of community sports clubs across the UK who are growing, generating income, attracting volunteers and developing new partnerships. So what is the difference? What are these clubs doing to make this happen?

Simple answer: They are more than just sports clubs – they are a hub for their communities.

They play a part in people’s lives, they involve the whole family and community, they can be based in rural Scotland such as Galloway Cricket Club or inner city Leeds, such as Hunslet Club but they are all making a real change in the community around them. And that’s is why they are growing. They do not see sporting success as the be all and end all; if it happens fine, if not, fine anyway.

These clubs, we call them Community Sports Enterprises, have often been doing their great work in isolation with little support or inspiration. Many of them have attended one of our Grow Your Club workshops and some have spoken at our events or featured in our newsletters and on our website. But, they need a higher profile and more inspiration.
Some visionary governing bodies and other sports organisations have brought us in to help these thriving enterprises to grow and it’s been great to see the impact that has made (see below).

#MoreThan – the way forward

It is no coincidence that the club enterprise programme SMN are delivering for Cricket Scotland is called #MoreThanCricket, that the similar programme we are delivering for the Football Association of Wales Trust is called #MoreThanAClub and that the programme we delivered for England Golf was called #MoreThanGolf

I am sure you get my point.

Across the UK there is, at Government level, increasing focus on how sport can be a catalyst for change and social good. This is we are seeing programmes like Changing Lives through Sport and Physical Activity in Scotland and Healthy and Active Fund in Wales where clubs and community organisations are required to collaborate to deliver real benefits to their communities in order to access the funding.
(And I can guarantee you those clubs that get involved with these projects are the thriving ones, win/win).
Our community sports clubs can become Community Sports Change Makers which is an enterprise which changes people’s lives through sport, in a vibrant, visible and viable way.

The model illustrates how community sports clubs, by having the right vision and by being run as a vibrant, visible and viable enterprise they can also deliver real benefits in their communities These go hand in hand: “You can’t make changes to people’s lives if you are not a sustainable enterprise, because you won’t be around for long”.

So, if your club is a well-run enterprise you can be involved in improving health and wellbeing, reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, create community cohesion and improve people’s health and well-being, to name a few.

You will also be able to develop partnerships with a wide range of community organisations which will bring new players, volunteers and income streams to your club.

An example is the number of cases where we are experiencing productive partnerships between community sports clubs and Housing Associations. The latter want happy, healthy tenants and that is something that welcoming and engaging sports club can deliver.

So, if you are ‘just sport’ I wish you the best of luck (because you will need it), but you are ‘more than sport’, well done.

Yes, these are challenging and exciting times for community sports clubs,

SMN will soon be launching a series of workshops and guides on How to become a Community Sports Change Maker. If you want to learn more about we can help your organisation or club, please do get in touch.

New places and new people – a different approach to engaging with inactive people

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New places and new people – a different approach to engaging with inactive people

London Sport may have found an answer to the question of how to get more inactive people active

(hint: it may not necessarily involve sports clubs, leisure centres or sports coaches)

Over the years we have seen study after study, read report after report and listened to many conference presentations, all talking about how to get physically inactive people more active.

And, it has to be said, whatever figures you see, that we haven’t really seen massive increases in the number of inactive people taking up sport and physical activity. We do have plenty of people involved with sports coaching and sports development praising the wonders of being active, but in many cases, they talk to themselves and not to the inactive and the people and places they connect with. So, what to do? How do we engage with the inactive people and get them active?

For a while, London Sport, the County Sports Partnership for London, has been studying and considering how to develop a broader and better workforce for getting people active. A couple of weeks ago they published a framework for realising the ambition of London becoming the most physically active in the world and you see the document here.

The challenge of the traditional workforce

The research reveals that 48% of inactive Londoners don’t feel that the traditional workforce (sports clubs, leisure centres and sports coaches), meet their current needs.

At the same time, 38% of people within the traditional workforce in London see working with inactive people as their role (which means that almost two-thirds of sports coaches and clubs in London do not see working with inactive people as their role). Please read that again – yes, so, a large majority of people involved with sport and physical only want to engage with people who already active.
No wonder then that 78% of the traditional workforce doesn’t feel confident that their approach works effectively with inactive people.

So if a cricketer wants to improve his reverse sweep or a gymnast wants to develop her somersault then the traditional coaches at our community sports clubs or leisure centres are more than happy to work with them. But for the inactive person, perhaps with less talent, the situation is more bleak – sop where and to whom do they go get motivated to become active? Answers on a postcard, please.

So, despite all our coach education, club development initiatives and legacy programmes from London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 there is a considerable gap between the traditional sports delivery system and people who simply do not feel that the current places and people where they want to join. (Yes, this research only covers London, but in our experience, these figures represent a fairly universal picture).

Yes, as London Sport points out, we need a better workforce, which can provide a better experience catering to the diverse needs of the inactive part of the population and a broader workforce which involves non-sport organisations from housing to faith centres.
Inactive people want to enjoy themselves, have fun, improve their skills and be part of a welcoming social and sporting experience. Yes, if possible, they want to develop their skills, but they want to do so in an engaging way; they don’t want to be put under undue pressure from an over-ambitious and zealous coach. Also, they want to be active in an environment which they know and where they feel comfortable and at home, which is probably not a leisure centre or sports club full of fit people in leotards!

So, we need to distinguish between ‘sports coaches/fitness instructors’ and the ‘activators/hosts’ who get inactive people into regular activity: We call them Activity Growers.

An Activity Grower is a person who removes the barriers inactive people experience when wanting to become more active and then focus on keeping them motivated, engaged and active.

  1. They engage with local communities and link up with inactive people based on their age, health condition, ethnicity, demographics, and/or location
  2. They are welcoming people in all shapes and sizes
  3. They provide experiences which all types of participants can enjoy
  4. They tell their story through photos, videos and hashtags. From flyers to Instagram – efficient and effective communication
  5. They develop the enterprise culture and skills which can help ensure long-term sustainability
Here based on our work with hundreds and hundreds of all types of providers are some suggestions on how to keep people active from cradle to care-home. • Understand people life stages and adapt your customer offering, experience and communication to each of them. From child to teenager, from boy/girl about town to young parent, and so on. From All-Star cricket for 5-8-year – olds to walking football/basketball to the older generation and everything in between • We are all different and want to be listened to and treated as individuals • We all want to have fun. But, what fun for the coach is rarely what is fun for the average 14-year old. To keep people stay within sport they will have to love it, otherwise, they will lose heart and leave. Get them involved, put a smile on their faces and help them to progress at their pace. Remember that love does change over the years so you will have to change with it.

So, there seems to be a great scope for developing much more innovative solutions for engaging with the ‘hard-to-reach’ communities. Golf in mosques and care-homes, cricket on beaches or football on housing estates, the list goes on…
Remember, this is about getting people active and not about winning medals (having said that, Moen Alli, the England cricketer started playing with a taped tennis ball in a car park…)

Yes, London Sport is absolutely right. If we are to attract and retain more people in sport and physical activity we need to recruit and develop a much broader workforce based in our communities.

Here a Sports Marketing Network we would be delighted to be involved with delivering that.