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Community Sport in the Future Conference 1st March 2022, CBS Arena. Covemtry

A one-day conference highlighting the challenges and opportunities facing community sport and physical activity

 New habits, digital technology and disengaged groups…how do we embrace?

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) has had a significant impact on life as we know it, and community sport and physical activity are no exemption.

Community sports 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.. 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. 

These changes include that many of us have been more active outdoors and in more informal settings and that the number of apps and other digital technology solutions have boomed.  Unfortunately, we are also witnessing a widening in health inequality where the inactive and disengaged groups have become even less active and and

So, what can our sports bodies and clubs and gyms and leisure centres learn from these developments?

The first step is to acknowledge that these trends are accelerating and that they are here to stay. No, we will not go back to “the way things were”, with changing work patterns, massively increased use of technology, growth of social exercise/small sports happening all over the place.

We are also seeing a resurgence in the whole thinking around that sport and physical providers must become better at ”listening to people’s lives” and provide services and experiences that are relevant to different types of people.  High-pressure spinning classes may be great for 25-year old fitness fanatics whereas ‘walking and knitting or singing’ is more likely to appeal to 60+ females.
The second step is to throw away the rule book.  Too many places/clubs/bodies are run by the ‘diehards’ who want things to stay the same, partly because they are afraid of change.
Why can’t our football providers organise family football festivals? Our supermarkets should organise doggy walks starting and finishing in their car parks. Our housing associations could set up sports equipment libraries for residents (this is happening in Roskilde, Denmark)…the list of options is endless.

Build back better

It’s time for a rethink and re-set for providers of community sport and physical activity
In many countries, the traditional leisure facilities 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 an increase in the number of people joining traditional sports clubs but 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 popular with females who won’t/can’t commit to regular classes.  We are also experiencing golf clubs where people don’t have to join as members but simply buy say, 100 points, where a round on Saturday costs, say, 10 points whereas a round on a Monday afternoon only costs 4 points. 
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. Many of our sports and leisure centres could benefit from
Does the average community sports club really welcome overweight people with underlying health conditions?  Does the fitness enthusiast want to (re)join their studio/centre when they have now taken out a £50 per month subscription to Peloton?  Can the family which has been used to doing family sport in the back garden join your place as a family? Family football or cricket, anyone?

Who should attend this event?

Representatives from governing bodies of sports, Active Partnerships, leisure trusts, gym operators, local authorities, community sports clubs, sports social enterprises, Sport for Development organisations, sports councils, patient associations and other bodies interested in the future for community sport and physical activity.

The conference will feature these presentations and presenters

Community sport in the future

Rosie Benson, Head of Clubs, Sport England

If you don’t like change, you will really hate irrelevance

Svend Elkjaer, Founder/Director, Sports Marketing Network

Leisure trust of the future

Kirsty Cumming, CEO, Community Leisure

National Governing Bodyof the Future

James Hope-Gill, CEO, Skateboard GB

How a hybrid approach can help engage with local communities for our clubs

Melissa Anderson, Managing Director, Valleys Gymnastics Academy

How inclusive and diverse community sport could look in the future

Michelle Carney, CEO, Purpose Driven Impact

How technology is impacting community sport and what does it look like for the future? 

Francisco Baptista, CEO and Founder, TeamSportz 


Sport for Development in the future

Ollie Dudfield, CEO, Sport for Development Coalition

The role of community sports enterprises in the future

Sensei Mumtaz Khan, Managing Director, Onna Ju-Jitsu Club, Onna Bike, and Bradford Archery Club