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Community Sport Clubs Have Lost $1.6 Billion

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ustralia’s 70,000 community sports clubs have lost an estimated aggregate $1.6 billion due to COVID-19, according to a new report from Australian Sports Foundation.

The report was prepared based on date from the survey, ‘Impact of COVID-19 on community sport’, and shows community sports clubs are in trouble, with over 16,000 at risk of closure.

The survey was open from May 19 to June 22 and collected 4,337 responses from 4,127 sporting organisations across Australia, covering 99 different sports, with 61% of respondents being small local clubs with fewer than 1,000 members and less than $250,000 in annual revenue, and 30% as larger local clubs.

The key findings of the survey, according to Australian Sports Foundation, include:

  • Australia’s 70,000 community sports clubs have lost an estimated aggregate $1.6bn to date due to COVID-19. For small local clubs, the average amount lost to date is around $14,900, while for larger local clubs, the average amount lost to date is just over $37,000
  • The shutdown of community sport from March onwards has had a profound social impact on community sports participants, with a contemporaneous research study showing around 1 in 3 respondents reported worse physical and mental health compared to the year before
  • The return to sporting activity does not mean the crisis is over – indeed, it is just beginning. Community sports clubs face multiple challenges in the months and years ahead, including reduced revenues and increased costs, putting their financial sustainability under threat
  • Nearly 70% of small local clubs forecast a decline in active participants and 43% project a decline in volunteers. At the same time, around a third of club’s project increased demand for community sport post lockdown, putting them under increased pressure they may be unable to meet due to financial constraints and lack of volunteers
  • Overall the combination of reduced revenues and increased costs mean that one in four respondents feared for their club’s solvency – indicating over 16,000 community sports clubs nationally are thought to be at risk of closure
  • On average, small local clubs require additional funding of around $12,600 per club, to assist them through the return to sport, and large local clubs require around $26,800 per club
  • While these are relatively small amounts per club, in aggregate the funding required is significant at $1.2 billion. This is broken down between $594 million for small local clubs, and $613 million for larger local clubs
  • Approximately $300 million is needed for clubs most at risk within the next 3 months, and a further $400m for clubs at risk within the next 6 months.

With the report, Australian Sports Foundation CEO, Patrick Walker, and chair of the board, Mark Stockwell, released a joint statement, calling for the survival of community sport past the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On behalf of the Australian Sports Foundation we call on all who care about community health, and who see sport as part of the fabric of Australian life, to join us in our campaign to help community clubs survive,” Walker and Stockwell said.

The report also including anecdotal statements from a wide range of community sporting clubs across the country, with South Darwin Rugby Union Club in Marrara, Northern Territory saying the impacts of COVID-19 run far deeper than financial pain.

“Not being able to play has many impacts: player’s mental health, loss of revenue including external fundraising, less exposure for sponsors, lost coaches and volunteers due to changes to their work requirements, already forecasted higher affiliate fees due to loss of revenue from parent body,” a South Darwin Rugby Union Club spokesperson said.