Community sports clubs are 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 and introduce new revenue streams…are all pressing concerns. Other sports providers are also facing similar, significant challenges – how to deliver great sporting and consumer experiences in a welcoming and sustainable way.
But right now there are great opportunities for sports clubs to play a much stronger role in your local communities, benefitting your club, your sport and your community. Community sport needs to adopt a new mindset and learn a new skill set – taking the best from successful social enterprises and the hospitality sector. It has 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 X-Factor, apathy, etc. by providing better experiences for each customer segment.
Many, if not most, of the really innovative and successful initiatives within community sport do not come from ‘the sports establishment’ but from sports entrepreneurs who often have to get things going, despite ‘the system’ and without its support. These are often unrecognised (until they achieve visible success) and in a world of community asset transfer and commissioning those people will have a huge impact. Life is changing and as a provider within community sport you have 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.
Society needs community sports clubs to prosper. We need them to be places where people will want to play and exercise and become involved. They should generally become hubs for their communities, in short become places ‘where people live their lives’. Our sports clubs and community groups could and should take on a much bigger role: they could take over the running of sports facilities and play a key part in the communities.
“If you don’t like change, you will really hate irrelevance”
Innovate – learn from your successes and your failures. Learning organisations keep innovating and learn more from their failures than their successes. Innovation is messy, risky, a pain, requires hard work and a bit of luck, but without it you will die.