The formal restrictions on sport will soon begin to be lifted, but many clubs still face an existential threat
Community sport is facing a “crisis” as Covid-19 restrictions slowly ease, with many clubs facing financial black holes they may not be able to navigate their way out of, according to a sports charity.
A nationwide campaign was launched on Wednesday to determine the impact of the shutdown on community sports clubs, amid concern many will be unable to survive the financial hardships brought on by the coronavirus restrictions.
The Australian Sports Foundation will attempt to quantify the funding challenges facing community clubs across the country after the outbreak brought sport at all levels to a shuddering halt and caused financial chaos.
Where problems are identified, the charity hopes to be able to financially assist clubs to get back on their feet and provide the mental and physical health needs communities rely on in more normal times.
An initial pilot survey conducted by the organisation, which says it has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to thousands of Australian sporting clubs over the past 30 years, revealed major concerns.
“There is a crisis in Australian community sport, which presents a real risk to the physical and mental health of our communities,” said Patrick Walker, chief executive of the foundation.
“To the general public it may seem like the crisis is coming to an end with mooted openings of community sports clubs across Australia, but there are issues ahead that haven’t been addressed yet.
“Trying to reopen and get members back onto sports fields is where the crisis for grassroots clubs will really start.”
Since the shutdown of sport, clubs have suffered not only from a loss of income from decreasing member subscriptions and local sponsorships, but also from additional costs the virus has thrown up, such as the implementation of new cleaning and sanitisation protocols.
With a resumption of winter sport seasons on the table – should the current trend of decreasing numbers of Covid-19 cases continue – some clubs may still be unable to reopen their doors given the unsustainability of their post-virus financial models.
Once the scale of the problem is identified, the foundation aims to lobby the government and channel philanthropic funding to those clubs in need.
“We will use the information to raise funds and advocate for more support for community clubs,” Walker said. “Sport has the power to bring communities together, to break down social barriers and to improve the health and mental wellbeing of everyone.
“It will play a vital role as our communities recover from this crisis, and we want to make sure that our community sports clubs are able to survive and help that process.”
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