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Club sport real success story of the Olympic Games

July 29, 2013

The biggest ever survey of sports clubs shows community sport thriving one year on from the Games – but more needs to be done to support growth.

As the nation celebrates London 2012’s one-year anniversary, results from the biggest survey of community sports clubs undertaken in the UK indicate a sector defying economic circumstances and growing at unprecedented rates.

The Sport and Recreation Alliance’s biennial Sports Club Survey results suggest that membership levels and club income have risen by as much as 20%.

Key findings show that:

  • Over the period 2011 to 2013, adult participating membership levels have risen by 20.6%.
  • Junior membership levels have risen by a smaller amount over the last 12 months (8.4%) but they still remain 15.9% lower than in 2008, suggesting the ‘Inspire a Generation’ strategy still has some way to go to address historic falls.
  • The average sports club’s income has risen by 19.9% to £42,845 compared to £35,736 in 2010, mirroring the increases in membership.
  • Clubs are becoming more viable with more members. Three in 10 clubs (28%) are breaking even (5% more than last year) and almost one in four (24%) are running at a loss (4% less last year).
  • Clubs need more support to sustain increased membership. Only one-third (34%) of mainstream sports clubs say that they have access to appropriate equipment for both non-disabled and disabled members to participate fully.

Games effect may be marginal. Societal and economic factors may have bigger role in increases

2 in 5 clubs (41%) said that uptake hadn’t increased noticeably after the Games. Only one in ten (13%) clubs report that their membership increased and these members had remained following the Games. 85% of these clubs who experienced a sustained increase are Olympic sports.

The average club who experienced more members gained 13 adult and 23 junior members. But the upward trend in membership existed pre-Olympics.

38% of clubs who experienced increasing numbers of adult participants between 2012 and 2013 said that there wasn’t a noticeable increase after the Games, suggesting that in many cases membership levels were already on the increase.

Andy Reed, chair of the Sport and Recreation Alliance said:

“People are turning to community clubs more and more to get what they want from life. Clubs don’t just offer sport. They also give people camaraderie, friendship, health, enjoyment – and they do it incredibly cheaply.

“These longer-term membership increases are a nod to the fact that sports clubs aren’t a relic of the past. The 2012 Olympics were a timely reminder of what sport can mean to a country but it’s community clubs which people go to in numbers whether it’s an Olympic year or not.

Commenting on the fact that only one-third of clubs have access to all the equipment they need, Andy Reed said:

“We need to do more to support growth now. There’s an open invitation from sport to those responsible for health and education to see how they can support growth in sports clubs. But it’s not an invitation that has yet been widely accepted.

“Clubs can only do so much on their own but the potential is huge. We’ve got huge looming health costs – costs so big that there’s nothing we can do to afford them – and investing in community club growth is the answer.

“A coordinated long-term strategy for sport coming from across government will be key, as well as ensuring that we invest in facilities to maintain them – keeping the cost to use them at an affordable rate.”

Read the Sport and Recreation Alliance previous Olympic and Paralympic Legacy report.