Welcoming Clubs – Support Programme

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Welcoming Clubs – Develop a more welcoming culture across

community sports clubs 

A comprehensive training and support programme for community sports clubs and other providers

  • with a guide on becoming a Welcoming Club – Develop community sports clubs that are welcoming to everyone regardless of background, ethnicity or ability with advice, ideas and case studies
  • three webinars with case studies from community sports clubs that have benefitted from adapting a welcoming and inclusive approach
  • a support network for community sports organisations to help them to develop a Welcoming Club one-to-one mentoring support from Svend Elkjaer, founder and principal of the Sports Marketing Network

Our community sports clubs and other providers could benefit greatly from the added benefits of being a Welcoming Club

Community sports 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 online shopping, watching Love Island, apathy, etc. by providing better experiences for each customer segment.

Life is changing and community sport has to change with it, full stop. Or even better – if you listen to people and their lives you should be able to anticipate the changes in their needs and wants. You can then adapt your offering and service so you are always that half a step ahead.

 Develop great leadership and management

Amazingly, very few clubs put much focus on how they lead and manage themselves.  Many somehow expect that having a few people on the committee and a 32-year old constitution will ensure that their club is well-run and going forward in the right direction and at the right speed, both on and off the pitch.

I am not suggesting there is one best leadership and management style, which suits all sports clubs.  There are many different styles and each suits various situations.  The key is to be aware of what style is right for you, at this moment in time.


SMN have seen plenty of examples where the right leadership, individually and collectively, can make a significant difference to the growth and development of clubs and have, unfortunately, also seen too many examples where bad, or lack of,

You are not ‘just a sports club’
You are in the experience business

So, be honest, how welcoming is your club?  Here are five simple statements; which one fits best in how people at your club feel?
Please now ask as many people, as possible, within your club which of the five statements below best describe the culture and attitude within your club. Then listen and act on their comments.

  1. We are completely focused on being welcoming, be it towards players, members, supporters and sponsors and we are aware of their different needs and we work hard to satisfy those needs
  2. We are getting increasingly welcoming although not everybody may be as welcoming as we would like.  We know how we want to improve and we are working hard to get there
  3. We need to focus less on internal and political issues and more on being welcoming
  4. We rarely talk about being welcoming – do we really know what that is?
  5. We are a sports club – why should we be talking about being welcoming?
Our community sports clubs must become welcoming towards the WHOLE community

Despite continued efforts, and various initiatives, community sport and physical activity in England has not managed to significantly increase participation among people with different attributes and backgrounds (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion) in a meaningful way.
Also, we continue to see those groups lag behind their white counterparts in terms of being physically active and living long and healthy lives.
The demographic of the communities in which sport operates has also changed dramatically. Our culturally, linguistically and gender diverse communities are looking for sporting options and experiences that celebrate diversity, promote inclusion, and most importantly, make people feel like they belong.

We must develop community sports clubs that are welcoming to everyone and ‘not just people like ourselves’

We must develop pro-active behaviours, options and actions to make people from all backgrounds, ages and abilities feel welcome, respected and that they belong at your club/centre.
Being inclusive is about following best practices for what sport/physical activity should be so that everyone can get the most out of it.

Diversity is the mix of peoples’ different attributes and backgrounds and a good way is to think about diversity is to think about your local community. Does your club reflect the diversity of your local community? Diversity is the mix of people, inclusion is trying to get this mix to all work together in harmony.

We need more welcoming activators – not more technical coaches

For many people, great coaching is roughly 10% technical skill, 20% being reactive and able to think on your feet and about 70% being nice to people. In their research into the sporting workforce published in 2017, London Sport asked almost 2000 regular Londoners what they’d mostly be looking for in a sports leader and things like ‘focused on fitness’ and ‘focused on technique’ came pretty far down the list. What came out consistently on top were qualities like ‘motivating’, ‘friendly’ and ‘not going to judge me’. 

The first-ever comprehensive programme helping to develop Welcoming Club  – community sports clubs that are welcoming to everyone regardless of background

  • You will receive a 36-page guide on becoming with advice, ideas and case studies
  • You will be invited to three webinars on how to become a Welcoming Club  – community sports clubs that are welcoming to everyone regardless of background
  • case studies from community sports clubs that have benefitted from adapting a welcoming and inclusive approach
  • The one-hour webinars will be held at 7 pm GMT on

Wednesday 19th January 2022

Wednesday 9th February 2022

Wednesday 23rd February 2022

  • You will be invited to join a support network for community sports organisations to help them to develop #MoreThanAClub
  • You will receive one-to-one mentoring support from Svend Elkjaer, founder and principal of the Sports Marketing Network

This whole package is available at just £58.50 with £ 12.00 Early Bird discounts (£46.50) for bookings made before 15th December 2021.

Group discounts are available for governing bodies, sports councils and others.

Shout Nice

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Shout Nice (Råb Pænt)
campaign launched in Denmark

The Danish Football Association (DBU) launches a campaign to improve parent, coach and spectator behaviour and language at community and junior football matches.

Seven out of ten referees at youth and non-league football matches in Denmark have experienced abusive behaviour and language over the last two years (something we fear is far too common across the world, hence why there is a shortage of qualified officials at many football leagues.  There are community leagues in the UK where 40% of matches will not have accredited referees.

In Denmark, over the last two years
  • 55 per cent of football referees have experienced coaches using foul language at them
  • 53 per cent of football referees have experienced spectators using foul language at them
  • 52 per cent of football referees have experienced players using foul language at them
  • 23 per cent of football referees have experienced threats in connecting with a match where they are officiating

In England, 93.7% of match officials say they have experienced verbal abuse – higher than other sports such as cricket (56.5%) and rugby union (53.7%), and significantly higher than in other European countries.

Abuse is still a significant issue, probably the biggest in refereeing. Mental health within referees is intrinsically tied to abuse. According to the Football Association, which governs the game in England, assaults occur in 0.007% of matches, approximately two a week.


An FA spokesperson said: “We work alongside our County FA network to offer all referees in their local area appropriate support.

But the story of Satyam Toki, a 28-year-old referee who was left bleeding after being hit by a footballer he had sent off for foul language at a game in Acton, Ealing, London, on 9th August 2020. Officials from around the country looked on in horror as the video clip of this vicious assault was disseminated across referee forums and on social media.

The player who committed the assault received just a warning from police after being given a 10-year ban by the local football association.
Police say they issued the caution after careful consideration, but Toki believes there is an element of racial discrimination to the decision as attacks on white officials have led to assault charges and court proceedings.


 Toki says it sends out the wrong message about protecting officials:
“This was an unprovoked attack and I don’t really know why the police have come to this decision. I was injured above my eye and my kit was covered in blood, I believe they haven’t done their job properly. There have been incidents in the past where they have taken individuals to court. I didn’t want to mention it but it feels like discrimination against me. If something had happened against a white official, would it have been taken more seriously?”

Further outrage from Toki’s assault ensued when, upon appeal, the perpetrator of the vicious attack had his FA playing ban reduce by half, to five years. This left many referees feeling incredibly uneasy about going out to officiate at a time when Toki’s assault was on the front and back pages and there was a multitude of other attacks taking place, such another in the same week which left a referee with a perforated eardrum. Many officials said it did not sit right with them that criminals were being allowed to play again sooner, with a groundswell of opinion amongst referees that assaults on match officials should lead to a lifetime ban from football before a referee is killed.

That was was the case in Holland where 41-year-old Richard Nieuwenhuizen was kicked to death by six teenagers and the father of one of the boys when operating as an assistant referee.

Most of the terms used by the spectators whether in Denmark, England or somewhere else we can not print here, but I am sure we have are all aware of them or have indeed heard them ourselves.

Foul language must be kicked out
The Danish Råb Pænt campaign gives a strong hint to players, coaches, spectators and refs to stop using foul language and cheer on the matches using some more encouraging terms.

Bent Clausen, vice-chair of DBU says:

“Football is about emotions, about togetherness and fighting spirit.  That is the heart of football and we shouldn’t change that. But we will not tolerate bad behaviour and offensive language at football matches and that is why we are insistent that we must respect each other and be well-behaved every time we play football.

Especially, we must protect our new and young referees, because otherwise, their bad experiences will cause them to stop refereeing.

The campaign includes a video that, in a slightly humorous way show that you can use an acceptable language jgarjgrjgrejgretjgertjgtej

It also includes posters to be put in changing rooms and clubhouses encouraging people to Shout Nice (Råb Pænt) and Show Respect (Husk Respekten).



There is also a competition where you can win a shirt signed by the Danish national team and tickets for a Danish international match.

You have come up with something humourous that Danish international goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel could be saying when he is facing a penalty-taker!

The Danish FA puts much emphasis on improving the culture within the clubs and show respect for officials, opponents and everyone else that come to the club. Coaches, committee members and other volunteers should play a key role in developing a more friendly, respectful and welcoming culture all across the club.

And, finally, a question to you:

How you are making sure that you, your club and your team treat the officials, referees, umpires and you come in contact with feel welcome and respected?

Ready to re-open – 3 steps for a good start

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Ready to re-open –

3 steps for a good start


Now that the UK is opening after the third lockdown and our community sports clubs and groups are getting re-started, the time is also a great opportunity to think differently, think ‘wrong’ and create a real difference.

So, here are three steps where you assess the situation, while you are preparing for the re-opening and making (realistic) plans for the future.

We will now be publishing some newsletters/guides on how to re-open. You can work with this in many ways. You can discuss this at a board meeting or you can also involve the whole club and get more differing aspects brought into the conversation

Reopening soon

Step 1

Your club before corona – how did it actually look like?

  • Think back to the time before March 2020
  • What did the club look like then?
  • Were you running well, achieving your goals?
  • Were you engaged with your community and generating the income you needed?
  • Did you really attract and retain members and volunteers?
  • Were there activities and projects that you didn’t get started on because you didn’t have the human resources and motivation required?

Be honest with yourself!

Step 2

What did you learn about your club’s culture and activities during the lockdown?

  • When you look back at your club during the last 12 months what has surprised you most?
  • How did your volunteers respond during the lockdown?
  • How did your members and target groups respond?
  • Were there values both amongst your volunteers and members which were particularly clear during the lockdown?
  • What were your volunteers, members and the wider community looking for the lockdown and how did you respond to that?
  • What have you done to engage with everyone during the lockdown?
  • Were there any initiatives that proved especially successful?

And finally, are there any opportunities and/or barriers that could result in permanent changes?

Step 3

What is the dream scenario for your club?

Now pull together the points from the discussions from the first two steps.  If you could choose freely which experiences/activities do you want to bring with you when you re-open?

Also, what changes do you want to make based on your experiences from the last 12 months?

  • Do you want to change the way you operate?
  • Should and can develop new ways of operating?
  • What are the 3 things you should stop doing? 
  • What the three things you could do better?
  • What are the 3 things you should start doing?

In short: How does the re-start look like and how can you make that happen?

From discussions to action’ Making it happen

Set up some quick working project groups, learn from others, join the Sports Enterprise Network for support and inspiration and don’t look back.


Good luck!

Svend Elkjaer, March 2021

How Britain’s parks are engaging with new audiences, in new places…

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How Britain’s parks are engaging with new audiences, in new places…


There is an increasing focus on the importance that our parks and other green spaces can play in getting inactive people active.

There are many ways of motivating and taking physical activity specific to local people in their park. This may include different levels of physical activity which can be fit into a general walk or dog walking schedule, the use of new technology to link to further information or perhaps the use of augmented reality and games.

There is no generic template for a good park or green space. The connections between experiences of nature, including diverse trees, plants and wildlife and mental wellbeing are strong. A park that only serves as a children’s playground or a football training ground is not fulfilling its potential,

There is also a strong case for saying that using parks for people to be active supports mental wellbeing and social inclusion and contributes to a preventative health agenda.

Also, while green spaces are important we should also remember that ‘blue space’ matters too. Rivers, lakes and canals are all great places for people to enjoy paddlesports, swimming or just being near the water.

The possibilities for our parks as places where local people engage and are active are numerous and there is considerable scope for local residents to share their experiences of using the park, to help people come up with ideas.

It is also important to recognise that visibility in the park makes it easier to see people like being active – reducing social distance.

There are also a number of ways that local groups and community entrepreneurs can become involved and develop bottom-up initiatives which can have a real impact due to their understanding of local needs and people.

This conference will feature real stories and successes to be told, lessons to be learnt, ideas and experiences to be shared

This conference is aimed at representatives from parks, social and sports development and other departments at our local authorities, social prescribers, public health, trusts, social enterprises, community groups and health and wellbeing bodies.

Presentations from: