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Is the community sports club a relic of the past, the hub of our communities, the basis for our medal winners or somewhere in between?

Community sports bodies and their clubs need to adopt a new mindset and learn a new skill set – taking the best from successful social enterprises and the hospitality sector. They have to recognise that sport operates in the experience business and that it is competing for people’s leisure time and money and has to attract people away from shopping centres, watching Love Island, apathy etc. by providing better experiences.

Community sports clubs are also facing strong challenges in order to survive and grow in an increasingly competitive and demanding market. How to attract new members and retain the existing ones, become a hub of the community, grow sponsorship revenue, improve the social life of the club, increase media coverage, benefit from new technology, introduce new revenue streams…

In order to survive and grow community sports clubs must ‘listen to people’s lives’ and develop new ways of running their clubs. They need to become more welcoming to attract and retain members and volunteers and they must ‘speak people’s’ language’ and communicate with them in a modern and engaging way.

How much focus is given to help clubs to develop into innovative and enterprising places, as opposed to someone who has to comply with the numerous demands for information and compliance from ‘above’?

We see an increased desire to start afresh when considering these challenges and opportunities and also an understanding that a more holistic and integrated approach is required…just to run a couple of workshops and then see the world change – it simply does not work.

We have also seen programmes where sports bodies just signpost their clubs to various external providers of training and support and the whole project becomes confused and ‘messy’.

We also have to accept that community sports clubs are all different. Different in their outlook, skillset, outlook, ambition and so on…some want to develop into social enterprises whereas others just want to ‘play their sport in the way they also have done’. So we will have to accept that some clubs will not buy into to become more enterprising and community-hub concept and that we should focus on those who want to become more vibrant, visible and viable.

In some cases, the ‘gazelle clubs’ will then become role-models for the ‘also-rans.

Perhaps there has been too much of a focus on getting clubs to comply with a number of policies which seemed important for people ‘up there’, but not necessarily for those volunteers who just want to ‘do their sport;.

In all walks of life, we are experiencing massive changes: 40%+ of UK households now subscribe to a streaming service, such as Netflix. 24% of the adult population work unsocial hours and 6% of the population are carers…so, how do we provide activities and places which take these factors into account. Does the way we organise training, leagues and events take ‘peoples’ lives’ into account?

If that rugby/football/cricket club which used to field seven teams now are struggling to put out two sides what are we to do?

Yes, we can blame all the external factors as listed above, but if the clubs are not prepared to change, then we can’t force them. At the same time, we are experiencing many clubs who are making a real difference in their communities while growing their membership and perhaps those two points seem to be interlinked.

We are experiencing innovative concepts which have proven very successful in getting inactive people into sport and physical activity and some of these initiatives take place in community sports clubs. However, many do not involve our sports clubs.

Initiatives such as Last Man Stands and All-Star are great examples from cricket Powerleague and Walking Football demonstrate that you can get people to play football and ParkRun and Back To Netball demonstrate that you can people back into running and playing netball. So, it CAN be done, but how often are our community sports clubs involved with these initiatives?

Some governing bodies estimate that around 20% of their community sports clubs are what you could call ‘fit for purpose’. We call those clubs ‘gazelle clubs’. Should we focus our club support initiatives and our funding on those clubs? Over the years I have seen £ millions being spent on facilities for clubs which simply did not have the wherewithal to run these facilities in an enterprising and financially sustainable way. Result: Wasted £££ and lots of grief.

Sports Marketing Network (SMN) has been working with 4000 community sports clubs across the UK and in Denmark on behalf of governing bodies of sports, sports organisations, local authorities and others. We have experienced some fantastic community sports clubs, often run along the lines of successful social enterprises by innovative and dedicated people. However, we have also come across far too many clubs run by ‘diehards’, who were reluctant to change and just waiting for the next grant to arrive.

We now believe that the time has come for a UK – wide debate on the future of our community sports clubs and how we work with them and support them.

We are therefore suggesting that we start with organising a one-day conference called

Basic value is the direct income from membership fees and match/tournament fees.

That income is, assuming that the club is breaking even and still has membership capacity. So, assuming, your annual membership fee is £80.00 and the new member spends £25.00 in match fees, the net annual income is £105.00.

If that member is then a member of your club for six years the total basic lifetime value is 6 times £105.00 = £630.00.
If we look at this in a purely business sense – as, say, a mobile phone company might regard this information – we know that each we shall lose a few members/customers (members), so we are interested in the average period we keep them in the income over that period.
It then follows you can increase the value of that member either by encouraging them to spend more money at your club and/or staying on as a member for longer. As an example, if we get the member to attend the club summer ball at a profit of £25.00 and stay on for eight years instead of six, the lifetime value of that member is 8 times £130.00 = £840.00 (an increase of 33%).

Community Sports Clubs – their future and role
How do we best develop and deliver club support and change programmes which can make a real difference?

  • So, what is the role of our community sports clubs in providing great sports experiences?
  • How do our national governing bodies and other sport organisations best develop and deliver club support and change programmes which can make a real difference?
  • Could we learn from the social enterprise support programmes?
  • Many sports bodies have boards and councils which have members who have ‘worked their way up’ because of their involvement with their clubs. They may not be the people who are best prepared to set the change in motion which is required to help. How do we best introduce club innovation and enterprise mind-set and skillset into our elected boards?
  • Should we more open and honest about the differing ambitions and abilities across our clubs?

This conference is designed to bring together everybody who is involved with developing and supporting community sports clubs across the UK so they can share ideas and experiences.

The target audience includes national governing bodies of sport, County Sports Partnerships, local authorities, sports organisations, educational institutions, funders and others with an interest in increasing physical activity and developing ou community sports clubs.

April 2018
Svend Elkjaer
Sports Marketing Network
01423 326 660

Bringing everybody together with an interest in raising the profile of the great work that sport is doing in our communities developing even better work and initiatives…learning from best practice both within and outside sport

This event is not about policies and strategies. It focuses on best practice and provides thoughts, tools and to-dos. It provides opportunities for successful providers to highlight capabilities. Real stories and successes are to be told, lessons to be learned, and ideas and experiences to be shared on how to create a more vibrant, visible and viable Sport for Good sector

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