Written evidence submitted by Sporting Change
Sporting Change exists to put sport to work. We support, connect and help sports to grow for the benefit of their communities.
Our focus is building partnerships to make sport work harder for our communities.
As a community focussed organisation, we are very proud to include Erdington Rugby Club in Birmingham as one of our clients. Erdington have recently become the inaugural winner of the Gallagher’s Grassroots Rugby Club - Season 2019 – 2020.
We believe passionately that national and local government need to see over-investment in sport and activity at a local level not as additional money going into perceived ‘wealthy’ sports but as proactive local community policies to positively impact on the health and wellbeing of our society. The positive social outcomes in respect of health, crime and social integration significantly outweigh the upfront investment.
Why do we need Community Clubs?
How must our Community Clubs continue to evolve?
Our specific response to your questions?
1) Are current sports governance models fit for purpose?
Sport in our communities is driven by people with the passion and determination who give their time and energy to set clubs and ‘sport for good’ initiatives up and keep them going through thick and (like current times) thin.
‘Governance’ is generally fit-for-purpose yes, and good governance is very important, but compliance with governance requirements (especially for community sport clubs in receipt of public funds via eg. Sport England) can be energy-sapping and can take volunteers’ time away from actually building better community sport.
Therefore, whilst we must guide and support our Clubs to make decisions that deliver the best sporting and activity outcomes for everyone in their local communities, it is also important that governance requirements don’t become so rigid that they exclude the one or two key volunteers that have made a Club sustainable.
2) What are the biggest risks to the long-term viability of grassroots sport?
The biggest risk to the long-term viability of grassroots sport is that there will no longer be the people there to step forward and make community sport happen. To protect and encourage more resilient and robust grassroots sport in communities, government needs to invest in these people and in initiatives and ideas that encourage people to get involved and stick at it
Money (whether its public money or not) is not actually the first consideration — it is good people who make it happen, who sustain it, and who should be the first consideration — ‘government’s’ first priority should be finding ways to better enable, equip, encourage, recognise and support these most important people
Government should therefore consider spending public money on structures and organisations that can take on the burden of governance and compliance, or who can build more capacity and resilience within community sport.
Similarly, government could consider tax incentives for people or organisations who donate their time in official capacities to community sport Clubs and projects.
3) To what extent should elite professional sports support the lower leagues and grassroots?
As noted above, it is local people not handouts from the elite end of sports that make great things happen with sport in our communities.
That said, the professional end of sport’s pathways can feel too distanced from their grassroots. For a sport to thrive rather than just survive it is essential that different organisations within a sport, both professional and amateur, feel genuinely part of a joined-up plan to grow their game.
All sports must continually work on being connected, but to find answers government should not exclusively direct their questions about grassroots sport to elite sport governing bodies when many of these representatives are not sufficiently connected to accurately reflect the views of all at the grassroots end of ’their’ sport.