Growing grassroots sport in Australia – for whom, by whom?

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Growing grassroots sport in Australia – for whom, by whom?

 New formats, places, people and partners for grassroots sports in Australia

2 free webinars

Friday  11th December 2020, 10 am AEDT

Friday 18th December 2020, 10 am AEDT


Across the world, people’s lives are changing faster every day. The explosive growth of social media, more people leading 24/7 lives, the decline of the traditional core family and a culture of more demanding consumers are just some of the trends that are having an impact on our lives.  And as a direct consequence, the way people view and participate in sport and physical activity.

In many countries, the traditional leisure facilities and community sports clubs are therefore facing considerable financial pressure, whilst workout-at-home brands like Peloton, Nautilus and NordicTrack are reporting massive increases in the number of subscribers. Cycling is becoming increasingly popular (In the UK there is a shortage of bikes) and Amazon and Google are joining Apple and many others in launching fitness apps and videos.

We are also seeing some people joining traditional sports clubs in more flexible ways.  In Denmark, they are seeing many families joining clubs but as part of a ‘motionsfællesskab’, or ‘exercise community’ which has proved particularly popular with females who won’t/can’t commit to regular classes. 

We are also experiencing a growing number of non-sports bodies, such as housing, patient associations and social enterprises delivering physical activity programmes to residents, patients and clients, respectively.

These two webinars will highlight different aspects of how you can adapt and change to this ‘new normal world’. Combining thoughts and tools from innovative community sports providers from across the world with case-studies from some of Australia’s most successful grassroots providers these three webinars will bring new thinking and ways to deliver grassroots sports right to your computer screen. At no cost!

In partnership with:

Friday 11th December 2020 10 am AEDT

Creating social innovation in grassroots sport in Australia, Svend Elkjaer, Founder, Sports Marketing Network. How people and groups are looking to develop and deliver innovative ways to engage with new groups through sport and develop more active and engaged people and a real impact in our communities.

Embracing the power of sport and recreation as a vehicle for inclusion, opportunity and belonging for all members of the community – including, recently arrived migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum. How clubs can shift their model to be inclusive of different groups, grow participation numbers and adapt to hanging community needs, Maia Tua-Davidson, Manager, Welcoming Sport at Welcoming Australia 

Friday 18th December10 am AEDT

Developing partnerships and collaboration in grassroots sports in Australia, Svend Elkjaer, Founder, Sports Marketing Network. How to pool a diverse variety of perspectives and ideas; this is what leads to innovation! How to collaborate with others including bodies and people from outside your normal network and sphere – creating shared value.

The work of a child is PLAY, exploring their own unique potential, being safe to fail, having a right to enjoy Sport for the sake of enjoying it, through GAME PLAY LEARN.  Joey Peters, Founder, Game Play Learn

Strong Webinar Line up

Maia Tua-Davidson, Manager, Welcoming Sport

            Joey Peters, Founder,                    Game Play Learn

          Svend Elkjaer, Founder, Sport Marketing Network

Sports Marketing Network, the organisers

Sports Marketing Network is a unique, UK-based organisation where physical activity and community sports providers can share best practice on how to become vibrant, visible and viable and develop innovative and enterprising enterprises.

We have been described as positive disruptors and we have worked with a wide range of sport, physical activity and community organisations across the world helping them to adapt, change and become better equipped to the changing landscape.

How to deliver enterprising community sport in the new ‘normal’ world – how to kickstart Webinar

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Deliver enterprising community sport in the new ‘normal’ world 

How to deliver enterprising community sport in
 the new ‘normal’ world – how to kickstart

An engaging and informative webinar
  Tuesday 24th November 2020 10 am GMT

Project Kickstart – a webinar presenting a ground breaking concept and toolbox designed to help community sports bodies and providers to get up to speed as soon as possible after the coronavirus pandemic

Social Innovation in community sport and physical sport

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Social Innovation in community sport and

physical activity

Great work is already happening and there are many opportunities ahead


 Webinar at Monday 9th November  2020 1pm GMT


Learn about best practice, how to forge great partnerships and develop really powerful projects

Social innovation is a concept which is gaining in traction the world over. It focuses on solutions (products, services, models, markets, processes etc.) that simultaneously meet a social need (more effectively than existing solutions) and lead to new or improved capabilities and relationships and better use of assets and resources. In other words, social innovations are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act.

 Within sport, whether using ice hockey in Northern Ireland to bring Catholic and Protestant communities together, Nagin Ravand, an Afghan football-mad refugee is getting other females from a multi-cultural community in Denmark to play football or Salaam Peace who runs a community engagement programme that uses sports and social education to bring people together from diverse backgrounds in East London, the innovation we are seeing in sport for change is extremely important for engaging and bringing communities together.

 We are also experiencing that the traditional sports bodies are missing out on various non-sports opportunities such as inclusion, public health, education and integration where community organisations, housing associations, patient organisations, etc. as these are being perceived as having a closer relationship with those inactive and disengaged people that the traditional sports bodies have struggled to engage with.

Salaam Peace uses sport to create social integration which resolves differences

So, what is social innovation in sport (SCIP)?

 SCIP comes in many forms and covers several areas but right now I would suggest that it is about  ‘people and groups who are looking to develop and deliver innovative ways to engage with new groups through sport and develop more active and engaged people and a real impact in our communities.

It is my experience that SCIP works best when it is ‘people out there’ who create activities and initiatives for people around them. People like themselves. Then it has credibility and its genuine.

 At the same time, we are also experiencing various organisations, such as GAME in Denmark and Our Parks and Sported in the UK who are delivering really great and innovative work in several locations adapting to local needs and conditions.  So, how do we ensure a wider reach and local engagement?

 We also need to become more and honest about works and doesn’t work. Like with any other innovation not everything goes to plan and there is always room for improvement and development. But, we have seen (too?) many cases where projects which didn’t really work were somehow forgotten/ignored, so the lessons weren’t learned. From personal experience, I can confirm that you probably learn more from failures than from successes.

Get local

 Every social innovation in community sport and physical activity begins its life as a hunch, living inside only a few minds. Then, through discussion, action and more discussion, often over long periods, it comes to be named, represented and codified.

 All good initiatives around engaging with disengaged people and groups are developed with, and often by, local people thus ensuring they can become sustainable and relevant.

 Good social innovations in sport are local

So, how do we support social innovators and social innovations within community sport and physical activity? Here are some suggestions that could/should be tested:

  • New sources of finance-focused specifically on innovation, including public and philanthropic investment in high-risk R&D, targeted at the areas of greatest need and greatest potential
  • ​More open markets for social solutions, including public funding and services directed more to outcomes and opened up to social enterprises and user groups as well as private business
  • New kinds of incubator for promising models, and ‘accelerators’ to advance innovation in particular areas such as, for example, chronic disease or the cultivation of non-cognitive skills;
  • New ways of empowering users to drive innovation themselves – with tools, incentives, recognition and access to funding for ideas that work
  • New institutions to help orchestrate more systemic change – linking small scale social enterprises and projects to big institutions, laws and regulations
  • New institutions focused on adapting new technologies for their social potential – such as artificial intelligence… as well as more extensive, rigorous, imaginative and historically aware research on how social innovation happens and how it can be helped

Social innovation in sport communities (SIC) could help to engage with change agents and support their work to grow their impact. However, due to the availability of digital platforms and other online tools, getting a new SIC started has become relatively easy and in principle requires no such resources.

Ballyhaunis GAA – Integration Day brings multi-cultural communities to the club 

Ballyhaunis GAA club has made the integration of immigrant children a priority, from Pakistanis and Syrians to eastern Europeans

Around the county in the North West of Ireland, some 5,000 people live in more than 30 of asylum centres. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work or to receive social welfare. Instead, they are given full-board accommodation and allowances of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child per week.

The roughly 250 (mostly African) residents packed into the Ballyhaunis centre today are separated from the local community by even wider chasms of language, culture and circumstance.

Ballyhaunis is Ireland’s most ethnically diverse town. The foreign-national population here was 42 per cent at the 2011 census. A majority of children in the local primary school, do not speak English at home. And the refugees housed in the Old Convent are only a small part of that ethnic mix.

“We don’t know each other really,” says Gerard McGarry, president of the local GAA club… Ballyhaunis GAA is a vibrant club, winning senior hurling and intermediate football county champions in 2014.

To help the refugees and asylum-seekers to integrate into the community (and to attract players to the club), they hosted an integration day at the local pitch at the end of May last year and based on the number of volunteers mobilised today, backing for the initiative was widespread.

The integration day was the brainchild of Darran Conlon, a hurling coach and police officer and former boxing champion. Conlon says his own two boys mix freely with children from different backgrounds at school. “They play together and go to birthday parties with the eastern European kids and the kids in direct provision. They have respect for each other’s cultures and I hope that continues.”

Hundreds of young people, and their parents turned up, played and watched hurling and the other Gaelic Sports which are completely unknown in their native countries.

A couple of hours after the crowds disperse here, organiser Darran Conlon tweets a photo of local black, white and Asian children holding up a large

“Give Respect, Get Respect” banner.

“Every day is Integration Day in Ballyhaunis GAA,” he writes. “Today we just celebrated it.”

Three examples of how one person can start a global social sports movement

Mixed ability sports was started by a young man with Cerebar Palsy who wanted to play and 11 years later it is growing across the world

Back in 2009 Anthony Brooke – a determined young man with Cerebral Palsy and a Learning Disability – wanted to play rugby union. He refused to be signposted to the disability-specific provision, in fact, he fiercely opposed ‘adapted’ rugby, demanding instead his right to play the mainstream full-contact version of the game. Assisted by his tutor Mark Goodwin, Anthony wrote to England Rugby and was introduced to Goodwin’s local rugby club committee.

At Bradford and Bingley Rugby Club, the Bumble Bees rugby team was founded, different only because it included players with and without disabilities playing together against local clubs in competitive, yet friendly games.

With an established home at the club and support from players at other community clubs, the Bumbles now have over 40 registered players with and without disabilities and play regular fixtures against able-bodied teams.

The Bumble Bees celebrate after a match

International Mixed Ability Sports are now taking mixed ability sports across the world helping to break downs barriers

Godgym…helps you doing good while you are getting fit

In September 2009 Ivo Gormley started a group of 11 people in London, which became Goodgym and they are now a UK-wide community of runners who get fit by doing good.   The word “community” is really important there. They are really a group of people who get together and try to achieve something positive, and their retention rate of their runners is quite staggering.

 Goodgym started by one man and is now a social movement

Parkrun, another world-wide movement started by one person

 Parkrun was founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt on 2nd October 2004 at Bushy Park in London

There are now over 5 million runners were registered worldwide. Parkrun is funded mainly through sponsorship, with local organisers only needing to raise money when they launch an event.

Events take place at a range of general locations including city parks, country parks, national parks, stately homes, castles, forests, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, canal towpaths, beaches, promenades, prisons, racecourses and nature reserves. 

 All Parkruns are 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) in length and are free to enter

Often social innovation has to deal what has been called the Nonsumer – that is why social innovation in sport is so important

The Nonsumer often has an intense dislike of taking part in any sport or physical activity. The last place they want to go to is the traditional sports club or leisure centre.

They often have underlying health problems and/or addictions, so any improvements in their level of physical activity can have a considerable positive impact.

The Nonsumer wants understanding and patient support.

And, finally: Here are SMN’s eight rules for social innovation in sport:

  • Social innovation is never a single event. It is a constant journey
  • Social innovation is combining ideas, learnings from all over the place and from all kinds of people
  • First, ask the right questions. The first step toward solving a difficult problem is asking the questions you need to define your approach.
  • There is no “right” size for social innovation. It is for startups and the big ones
  • Encourage open social innovation to expand your scope and capabilities
  • Disruptive social innovation requires new business models
  • In the digital age, we need to use platforms to access ecosystems of technology, talent and information
  • Collaboration is the way forward – find some partners and create some synergy

If you want to discuss how you can develop social innovation in sport, please get in touch. Svend Elkjaer +44 (0) 1423 326 660

Driving economic recovery, improving health & wellbeing First webinar in a series of three

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Driving economic recovery, improving health & wellbeing

First webinar in a series of three

11 am 18th November 2020

 Listening, learning and collaborating

This webinar will cover to be more user-focused demonstrate empathy and finding innovations and solutions that respond to human needs and user feedback.

We will focus on how to step into the user’s shoes and building genuine empathy for your target audience – we call it listening to people’s lives

The webinar will also cover how to pool a diverse variety of perspectives and ideas; this is what leads to innovation! How to collaborate with others including bodies and people from outside your normal network and sphere – creating shared value.

Claire Mclaughlin,

Co-ordinator, P4P Partnership for Procurement

Jude Reid,

SE & Sport Co-ordinator

Svend Elkjaer,

Founder/Director, Sports Marketing Network

Claire will cover how enterprising third sector organisation can form new partnerships or consortia; strengthen existing collaborations and ensure organisations build their capacity to better secure contracts or funding

Jude will cover how Senscot are working with a wide range of social enterprises across various sectors such as sport, health and tourism to help create synergy.

Svend will draw from his considerable experience in working with a wide range of community organisations to develop and deliver strong and sustainable collaborations.

It’s football, but not as we know it

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It’s football, but not as we know it

How three community football enterprises from Denmark are demonstrating the power of ‘bottom-up’ initiatives

Getting females from multi-ethnic communities to play football

Nagin Gavan is an Afghan refugee whose parents moved to Denmark in 2002, so she was brought up in a very ‘Danish-style’ culture. Relatively quickly she discovered that she was a good footballer and she never considered that it was unusual in Denmark to see girls playing football wearing a hijab.

When she was 12 the family moved to Gellerup an area in Aarhus, ´the which is a multicultural community where many residents come from countries where females do not normally play football.

So, Nagin started a girls section at a local football club and gradually people got used to seeing this group of females playing football in hijabs she learned how to engage with both the girls and the parents. When she realised that some of the parents were concerned that their daughters were missing out on their school work due to football, she started study-classes alongside the football sessions.

Since then Nagin has won several sports and community awards and is now an ambassador for getting females from multicultural backgrounds to play football.

In between, she is also a second-year student at Aarhus University.

With an adventurous heart and an open mind, she is a true role model, fighting the barriers for girls and women to be active in sports.

Nagin is in doubt about the importance of her efforts. She sees herself as part of a greater integration process, which in the end is about developing a broader framework for young people in the area. At school, you should be able to talk to everyone, regardless of where they live.

“It’s all about having the same opportunities, regardless of whether you live in a high-rise block or a leafy suburb”, she says.
Growing up in a multi-cultural community such as Gellerup does present some challenges, says Nagin. That is why this is the feeling of community at the football sessions. It’s about giving young people some opportunities where they can meet around some activities.

For Nagin, young people from deprived areas must get the same opportunities and experiences as other young people.
”It is important that we give Muhammed and Aamirah something to talk with Svend and Maria about. It is about giving the young people something they can have in common” she points out.

Celebrating European Week of Sport



On Sunday the 20th September Nagin brought together 100 local girls and women to introduce and encourage them to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle in connection with the European Week of Sport.

Here is how local TV covered that occasion

She also brought together 100 young men from across the city to a football tournament the same day which made lots of people smile and created new friendships.

Playing a strong role in the wider sporting landscape in the city

There are certainly some very ambitious to develop a whole sporting, leisure and community area in connection with also building a new Superleague football stadium and the city’s leadership are now recording videos with interviews from local community leaders. And, yes, Nagin is one of those people who has been interviewed. The interview is in Danish, but we wanted to share this confirmation of her influence and status. I do wonder whether how many places there would a similar person representing females from a multi-cultural community area would be asked to make a similar contribution.

Nagin wins another prize

The PlanChildren FoundationGirl awards every October in connection with the International Girls’ Day in October, a person, organisation or company that makes extraordinary efforts in the field of gender equality by contributing to changes in attitudes and by taking action to promote gender equality.  The 2020 Award has just been awarded to R

Playing a strong role in the wider sporting landscape in the city

Football reminiscence is a relatively new concept which is taking off in the UK, Spain and Sweden where patient associations, football clubs and care homes have joined forces to offer conversation groups focusing football memories for older people with dementia.

Jonas Holsbaek, an occupational therapist based in Copenhagen, Denmark has just finished a pilot project called FC Mindelund (‘FC Memory Lane’).

The concept for this particular programme is to have a mix of group therapy and physical activity – incorporating three parts: the first where items such as football shirts, photos, balls or ticket are used as a basis for a conversation around football memories. The second element is football training including penalty kicks, passing, dribbling or something else depending on the level of dementia and fitness. The third element is a kind of post-match chat over a beer or soft drink where they talk about the training and what they want to do at the next session.

Fælledgården, the care home where the football reminiscence pilot happened

It is important to point out that initially, the plan was to run the sessions at one of the best community football clubs, BK Skjold, men it proved easier to run it a local care home with 193 flats and a special block with 30 dwellings for people with dementia.  This tallies with the experiences from other similar projects of the importance of running the activities close to people’s homes in an environment they know.

Experiences with this and similar projects are that participation leads to better mental health, quality of life and level of activity and that the social aspects and having conversations around something they all have in common, football, is stimulating the participants.

The plan is now to develop a package and, literally, a toolbox, with equipment, manual and checklists and then offer that to other partners across Denmark.  Also, Jonas Holsbaek is planning in the future to split the participants into two groups depending on the level of their dementia.

Denmark’s most charitable football club

Playing football against famous clubs and at highly unusual places, while raising £££

In 2007 a bunch of 30+ guys started an Old Boys football team in Hinnerup, a suburb of Denmark’s second city, Aarhus.  The idea was to set up a team which could enjoy playing football and socialising in best old-boys style while also being ambitious, serious and innovative and create some ‘never-seen-before’ initiatives.

They quickly went on their impressive journey and in their first year had one exhibition match where they played against the cast of a cult TV programme based around some football nerds and which attracted a gate of 2700.

Simon Schiølin and Anders Lunde, the two main people behind the project both had a background working in management positions at sportswear brand, Hummel, so they had a good network of Danish footballers who had been playing in the big clubs across Europe.

So in 2008, they started their journey playing matches against old-boys teams from major clubs, starting with the Spanish side, RCD Espanyol. 

This then lead the team to give 500 DKK (£60) to each player with the brief to use that as seed money to raise some sponsorship funds which initially then grew to 250.000 DKK (£30.000)

They then developed a relationship with the Danish Red Cross and the club continued their innovative work and later that year could give Red Cross a cheque for 1 million DKK (120.000 DKK) which meant that 1500 poor kids in Uganda received a complete football kit and 400 footballs were also sent to the kids.

Since then they have played legends from elite clubs including Celtic FC, Ajax Amsterdam, Hamburg, Tottenham Hotspur, FC Barcelona, Arsenal FC

They have also played inside the gates of Danish maximum security prison, played some Danish expatriates in Dubai. They have played in the desert, Arctic and Shanghai.  They have also played at The Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium. the highest stadium in Europe (at an altitude of 2,000 m above sea level) – they do get around.

They have over the years raised money to provide 50 houses in Burundi working with Danish charity ADRA

They also played Denmark’s longest football match 10 hours, donating 250.000 polio vaccines to UNICEF

In 2015 they launched their UNICEF CUP which over the years has included teams such as the TV Presenters, the Comedians, the Engineers, the Youtubers, the Musicians, the UNICEF volunteers and many others.

What really impresses me is ´not just the innovation in terms of who and where they play, but also the amazing fundraising and partnerships with charities and NGO´and the persistence, doing this, year after year – very impressive.

Anders Lunde and Simon Schiølin and the rest of the team are considering which ways forward, but we are convinced that they will keep playing in all sorts of places and raising loads of money for good causes across the world.

1500 football kits donated to kids in Uganda 

Highlighted on Danish prime time TV click here  

Meeting Diago Maradonna

Presenting another cheque for Red Cross

Playing football in the Arctic

Playing FC Barcelona – one  the very few other football clubs who are allowed to wear the UNICEF logo on their shirts

The performance culture in too many sports clubs is counterproductive

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The performance culture in too many sports clubs is counterproductive

There are too many coaches and parents who perceive that success is all about their 10-year olds winning that league or tournament and that attitude is killing the interest in sport for many kids.

When we hear parents standing on the sideline at a football match for 10-year-olds and you hear a father shouting ‘break his leg’ or the parents watching a rugby league match for 8-year-olds starting a brawl having enjoyed some cans of lager at 11 a.m. on a Sunday morning  (both my own experiences) you start to worry.

And it seems that this is an international phenomenon.

In Denmark, the number of kids under 12 who are members at a football club has fallen 16.3% from 2012 to 2019 – from 155.551 members in 2012 to 130.113 in 2019. And there is widespread evidence that this drop is down overzealous and pressured coaching , focusing on winning and not emjoyment.

The Danish Fa are trying to address this challenge through top-down strategies and to put it simply, this is not working, obviously.   What is required is a bottom-up revolution, and not just in football in Denmark, but across traditional sports across the world.

Through our work with 4000 community sports providers, we have personally seen how a Positive  Person Path (3Ps) can have a significant impact on the culture at your club by ensuring that all coaches focus on the positive aspects of coaching and not the performance aspects until much later.

You should also be person-centred so that you are seeing people as individuals and just potential goalkeepers or fast-bowlers.

And then you should look at this as a path where you are leading people to do the right things, in the right sequence.

It can be done. Just ask Melissa Anderson who taken Valleys Gymnastics Academy from 100 members in 2011 to almost 3000 now.  Maybe the Danish FA should get in touch with her (I’ve got her number).

Good luck with introducing the 3Ps