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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 http://www.simply-cycling.org. 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 http://www.adultpanto.com/. (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.