Community sport and Coronavirus – the way forward

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Community sport and coronavirus – the way forward

How do we respond now, prepare for life afterwards and how will society change because of the virus and how do we respond? 

The community sports sector across the world is facing unprecedented challenges due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and we all have to adapt and learn from each other. 

  • How do we respond now, with clubs, facilities and centres closing down and events and classes, matches and festivals being cancelled?
  • How do we prepare for life afterwards?  How do we get people back? How will people’s habits change and how can you respond?
  • What is our new ‘normal’ going to look like?

 At SMN we do not have the answers but we feel that it is important that we all share our thoughts and experiences from across the world. Copenhagen can learn from Sydney who can learn from Manchester, and basketball can learn from streetsports and so on.

We are linking up with experts and providers from across community sports so you will have access to best practice.

The format from this series is that you link on to SMN’s webinar page and we will start each webinar with a brief presentation and you will then have the opportunity of sharing ideas and experiences on how you are dealing with this issue.

In between the webinars we will be producing follow-up notes which we will be sharing.

We reckon each of the webinars will last 20 – 30 minutes and they will be recorded and made available on SMN’s website.

If you have particular points you want us to cover please let us know.

We look forward to hearing from you and, hopefully, you will want to join us.

PS. If you want to talk about booking SMN to run specific online support for your colleagues, clubs, providers and others, then please get in touch with me Svend Elkjaer  01423 326 660

                                                                     You can registrate and book directly below

You can now access this webinar on the SMN GoToWebinar channel

Brighton Table Tennis Club wins Club of the Year at Pride of Sport Awards

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To celebrate they release the single Build a Bridge (the first-ever by a UK community sports club)

Tim Holtam co-founded the Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) in 2007 and it has grown since then into a community of over 1500 players a week, including a Downs Syndrome Champion, boys from Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, a former UK Chinese Champion, top junior players from all over Brighton and local club players. 

They run 100 tables in parks, schools and prisons and work with refugee groups, travellers and psychiatric patients.
It began ten years ago as a means to help white working-class kids from Brighton’s deprived neighbourhoods.  “With those kinds of values from the very beginning, we’ve now expanded into working with adults with learning disabilities, children in foster care, refugees and homeless people.”

Any group that could benefit from some social engagement and some social inclusion and some fun through table tennis is welcome,” Tim explains.“In February 2007, me and co-founder Harry McCarney had two old tables in the Brighton Youth Centre; over ten years it’s grown and now we’ve got over 1,000 people a week playing on over 100 tables across Brighton in schools and outside.”Tim Holtam says ”It’s a place of hope, solidarity and opportunity. On a Tuesday we have young Irish travellers being coached by Afghan unaccompanied minors, the world’s first Table Tennis coach with Down’s syndrome and local white British kids.”

In May last year, BTTC became the UK’s first Club of Sanctuary. The Sanctuary title was previously only given to cities and schools. It is a grassroots scheme, created in 2005, that honours places that “take pride in the welcome they offer to people in need of safety”. BTTC has also been given substantial grants from Sport England to support its refugee integration work.

Tim adds, as an afterthought of the club’s progress: “Yeah, it’s become a bit of a thing.”

Pedro Santos, a formidable Portuguese player and BTTC Head Coach, is proud that there people from eight European countries and ten from the rest of the world – including Eritrea, Afghanistan and Syria.

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Asset transfers – a great way of developing community assets

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Asset transfers – a great way of developing community assets, or a convenient way for local authorities to get rid of ramshackle facilities, or both?

Asset transfers of community buildings and sports facilities have taken place across the UK for a few years now. In many cases, they have gone well and a bunber of community groups and sports clubs now run their own facilities and can grow their impact in the community.

An example is Jesmond Swimming Pool in Newcastle which was one of the first sports facilities to be transferred to community ownership in 1992. Since then it has been an innovative award winning social enterprise.

Freed from the constraints of the bureaucracy of the local authority the management has developed an innovative and enterprising culture which is the envy of most other pool operators.


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Jesmond Pool – a successful Community Asset Transfer






We must support our Community Sports Change Makers

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We must support our Community Sports Change Makers – or we will lose them

Helping them to overcome resistance to change at clubs, regions and governing bodies


Over the years I have been running the Sports Marketing Network, I have had the great pleasure and privilege to meet some incredible Community Sports Entrepreneurs or Community Sports Change Makers. People who come across a challenge that they simply have to address or an opportunity that they simply want to exploit.

Very rarely, do they do this for financial gain, often they lose money, certainly in the beginning but they want to make an impact in their community. They may start a stand-alone social enterprise working desperately hard to ensure that they are financially sustainable while they are doing good in the communities or they may be involved with an existing club that they want to drive forward.

All good stuff I hear you say, but sadly in far too many cases are these people being ignored and discouraged and rarely are they being supported by ‘the system’.

They tend to focus on getting on with the job, are rarely on the radar of the people ‘up there’, their solutions are mostly based on solving needs and not following strategies and they tend to be ‘doers’ and not ‘politicians.

When indeed they break through they can make a real difference, such as Simply Cycling in Wythenshawe Park, where Sue Blaylock completely off her back set up this all ability cycling social enterprise And at Lymm Rugby Club where Simon Plumb is behind their annual Panto which brings in £30.000 every year which enabled the club to buy the field next door for some more pitches (In neither case has the respective governing body had any involvement, which is a bit of a shame).

No, those people do not really fit in, but, they are making a difference in their communities.
Compare that to three cases I personally have come across the last few weeks where three Change Makers, who have volunteered within traditional sports clubs and who all three had made a real difference within those clubs (they thought) now have thrown in the towel and left their clubs. They simply could not fight the naysayers and diehards at the clubs and those clubs will much the poorer for it.

So, who will now drive these clubs forward and make sure they are relevant in the 21st century?

At the same time, most clubs tell us that they can’t get volunteers, but obviously they only want volunteers who don’t want to change anything!

So, unless we change tack we will keep losing great people who one way or the other can make a real difference in community sport. These people can not be replaced by some top-down strategies or funding streams that go to the same bodies delivering the same projects, in the same way, achieving the same outcomes…

5 Sport for Change and Social Good Workshops:

Workshops will run from 9.30 am – 4.00 pm

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

So, here are some initiatives and ideas which we here at SMN feel could help our Community Sports Change Makers; it would be great to hear your feedback:

1. Every fund set up to fund community sport and physical activity projects should allocate 10% to ‘weird and wacky’ projects. Just allocate small ‘seed; amounts and if/when the project is looking good then you can provide further financial and mentoring support. And encourage video applications – not many 17-year-olds can be bothered to complete the standard 37-page application form

2. SMN will collect and disseminate examples of best practice from community sports enterprises, support providers at all stages of their development, bring enterprises from different parts of the UK together so they can learn and share, run workshops and produce guides on non-sport specific issues facing community sports providers and generally provide support on their enterprise aspects.

3. SNm will help train potential sports entrepreneurs on how to develop and run successful and sustainable providers for the benefit of their customers and communities. We will also help educate sports/enterprise/community professionals on the various aspects of community sports enterprise, so they are better equipped to understand and support budding sports entrepreneurs.

4. Community Sports Enterprise needs champions and SNN will highlight the great work done by so many people within the sector and ensure that they will act as role models and beacons.

5. We will set up a free, confidential, remote mentoring service where Community Sports Change Makers can contact us (on a fair-use basis) and get help, a shoulder to cry on and ideas on how to move forward in the best way.

It would be great to hear from you.

Community Sports Clubs – their future and role

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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