Lack of facilities failing community sports groups

By Sported |  1st February 2022

Sported’s latest Community Facilities thought leadership report, reveals that groups not having access to facilities has delivery, resilience and funding implications. The knock-on effect of this situation is that the inequalities that exist between groups without secured facilities and groups who do have their own facilities (or the funds to block book long-term slots) worsen.

Finding and securing facilities is an issue for the groups in our network 24% of whom do not have access to their own facilities.  68% of groups are finding it harder to access facilities than before the pandemic. This issue affects smaller organisations with tighter budgets more than the larger, more established groups, meaning that participants from areas of higher deprivation are more likely to miss out on activities.

Using school facilities has been seen as a solution to this problem but with increasing levels of outsourced management, costs have been pushed up which outprices smaller community groups, who are also in a weaker position as they are not able to block book sessions. Social distancing has made this situation worse as schools have looked to restrict access outside of school activities. Sported recommends that market intervention should be considered to ensure that facility owners consider social value as part of the access to facility decision making.

The precarious situation this problem creates for community groups, decreases the groups’ ability to be resilient and responsive. Not owning their own asset is not only inconvenient and disruptive but also makes it much harder to access grants and support. Sported calls on funders to be flexible to ensure that funding doesn’t continue going to the same groups.

Without the basic security of accessing a facility, whether that be a hall, room, pitch or other place, groups cannot plan for activities such as home games and this effects the provision of attractive services for young people. Groups that do not have access to their own facilities will struggle to encourage young people to attend, which is a real challenge we know many group leaders are facing.

Our latest Pulse report showed that 58% of groups have less than 80% of their young people attending since before the pandemic. It is crucial that we address the issues around lack of facilities so that we can break down this barrier to activity, that so many groups face.

The recent House of Lords National Plan for Sport and Recreation Committee Report recognises all the issues in this report and also recommends investment into facilities for community sports groups.

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