The big challenges facing community sport

Chris Wignall, Research and Analysis Officer at Sported

chris-wignallWe recently quizzed our members about what they felt were the big challenges preventing the Sport for Development sector reaching its full potential. Here’s what they had to say…



Unsurprisingly, funding is front of mind for the majority of our members. Indeed, 80% of those surveyed said they were looking for help with their finances or that funding is an issue, whilst 47% felt they didn’t have sustainable funding streams in place.


A key sticking point for our members was that funding is all too often concentrated on larger, elite provision, with government missing out on smaller organisations’ unique value. “We know there is a need. We know there are skilled workers. We know groups can engage young people. What’s missing is funding.”


As well as this, funding streams are often structured in a way which makes them difficult or unsuitable for small clubs to access. In a sector where it can take time to gain momentum and participants, and where change is often only going to be visible long-term, clubs are hamstrung by short-term funding, or funding that prioritises new activities over established, tried-and-true provision. What funding is available is unlikely to consider core costs, and to demand disproportionate levels of monitoring information, adding to demands on time in a predominantly volunteer-led sector.


Lack of true understanding of sport’s value

The government’s new sports strategy – ‘Sporting Future’ – has put the social value of sport firmly at its centre: a position that Sported and our members have long called for.


Government should “really look at and understand the power that sport has to build stronger, happier communities and to measure the impact and invest long term in those organisations, nationally and locally that deliver those outcomes” said one Sported member.


“Sport clubs have a wider impact than simply the participants. They can benefit families, volunteers, local community, siblings. They should be for everybody, not just elite participants.” There is a need to “take accountability for sport and the wider benefits. We need joined up thinking as a statutory duty between public sector partners such as the Police, NHS and local authorities.”


Facilities – cost and availability

Facilities are also a key concern, especially in an atmosphere of cuts. As well as dismay at the closing of facilities, our members felt school facilities are much less available than they could be. “Help local sport organisations to access suitable and underused facilities and charge low levels of rent to enable sustained delivery of activities to young people,” one group says. “Consider how you can make your sport facilities open to the wider community and other sports organisations outside of school hours in holidays.”


Greater engagement with NGBs and other sporting bodies

Clubs and groups were also keen to communicate more with NGBs and other governance organisations, asking them to “Proactively seek two-way communication.” Members identified a need for “openness, willingness and flexibility from sports councils and NGBs.”


Volunteer support

Almost all community sports clubs are born out of a love of sport: they are mainly run by enthusiasts, who understandably want to concentrate their volunteering time on the activities they love. With 64% of our members entirely volunteer led, time is limited, but as clubs develop, more and more time needs to be devoted to the ‘business’ side of clubs demanded by funders and other support agencies. Yet 29% felt they didn’t have the adequate administrative skills to develop their organisation.


With time constraints a key issue, demand for volunteers is high. However, attracting and retaining these volunteers to be a challenge: they can be put off by statutory requirements and the sheer time commitment that volunteering demands, or be less to support in admin and other less sporty tasks. Where volunteers are retained, gaining funding to train and gain qualifications for volunteers is also a challenge for groups.


*The feedback referenced in this blog were taken from the responses of 408 participants at a series of Sported events hosted across the UK between March and September 2015.



Tell us what you think. What is the single biggest challenge facing your community group?