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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant economic impacts at the individual, organisational, and broader economic levels. Current indications suggest non-essential spending will be impacted for several years and this could include reductions in sport participation fees and sponsorship from businesses. With many community sporting clubs relying heavily on these revenue options, a prolonged decline would be devastating.


Paying for sport in the current financial climate could be a barrier for many Australians as the impact of COVID-19 has affected disposable income and reduced spending on non-essential items.

Sport organisations

With sport cancelled across Australia, lack of revenue is impacting sporting organisations at all levels and has placed the survival of some community sporting clubs in jeopardy.

Australian economy

Economic analysis in 2020 estimated the Australian sports industry generated $32.2b in sales. Contributing $14.4b to GDP and supporting approximately 128,000 full-time jobs.

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  • Making a difference in the community, SeniorsToday, (29 November 2021). Bilinga Surf Life Saving club is embracing the aging population surrounding their club first creating a coffee nook and now looking to institute the highly popular Silver Salties program.
  • Riverland Independent Football League club Cobdogla Eagles goes into recess for 12 months due to volunteer numbers, Patrick Keam, The Advertiser, (10 November 2021). A 102-year-old Riverland football club will spend 2022 on the sidelines and is facing an uncertain future just months after breaking a huge losing streak.
  • Many of Wagga's sporting clubs are grappling with extra costs and COVID-19 health restrictions, Sean Cunningham, Daily Advertiser, (27 September 2021). Some of Wagga sporting clubs' futures hang in the balance as they face an uncertain future following unexpected additional costs related to COVID-19 restrictions and a time-consuming battle to comply with those rules.
  • Sporting glory on hold as clubs struggle to cash in on GB’s Olympic success, James Tapper, The Guardian UK, (26 September 2021). Funding, facilities and the lockdown hangover take toll on recruitment despite Tokyo uplift
  • How much damage did COVID-19 do to our sporting nation? Here's what the data shows, Cody Atkinson, Sean Lawson, and Paul Kennedy, ABC 7:30, (23 September 2021). Since that first lockdown, the country has lived through a patchwork series of lockdowns and restrictions, altering the lives of everyone. At both the professional and local levels, competitions have started, stopped and been halted across the past year and a half, with little certainty from month to month. At the same time, Australians have embraced the need for physical exercise more than ever and are also watching more sport. While few people have been able to experience live sport at the same levels as before, television ratings for sport have skyrocketed. And while organised sport has suffered from a participation standpoint, more Australians are exercising regularly since COVID-19 first hit. Sport, like the rest of society, has had to grow and adapt to suit the realities of COVID-19. But the damage hasn't been dealt with equally and the effects of COVID-19 have differed drastically.
  • An open letter from Gillon McLachlan, AFL CEO, AFL, (23 September 2021). To everyone involved in community football leagues, clubs and programs across Australia, I want to say a sincere thank you for bringing the game back in what has been another challenging year. Even in this challenging year, the following numbers highlight the strength of community football, nationally:
    • Women and girls’ participation numbers continue to surge, with community club participation up five per cent on pre-COVID figures from 2019
    • Overall community football participation is at 99 per cent of 2019 numbers, a fantastic outcome given all the disruptions faced in the past two years
    • Youth male community football is up 1.5 per cent (v 2019 total)
    • NAB AFL Auskick participation has rebounded to be just shy of 2019 levels
    • The legacy of having so much AFL football played in Queensland in 2020, including the Toyota AFL Grand Final at the Gabba, has had a positive impact in the state, with record-breaking participation and community Auskick up by more than 28 per cent
  • Australian community sport in financial strife amid COVID, with many clubs at risk of going under, David Mark, ABC, (21 September 2021). A new survey of Australia's 70,000 community sport clubs has found almost all have lost money with thousands of them facing the risk of going under. The survey was commissioned by the Australian Sports Foundation to examine how community sports clubs were faring during the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown.
  • AFL supporter bases boom in 2020/21 as lockdowns keep people at home and ‘glued’ to the action on TV, Roy Morgan, (21 September 2021). Although the last 18 months have been the most complicated in the history of the AFL with changing restrictions and border closures upending scheduling and sending clubs all over the country, often to play in empty stadiums without any spectators, they have proved a boon for club support. Almost all the AFL’s 18 clubs experienced a rise in support during the year to June 2021 compared to a year earlier and some of the biggest increases have come for teams enjoying success during the last two years. Over 8.8 million Australians now support an AFL club, up over 1.3 million on a year ago
  • Research Suggests Majority Of Sports Industry Leaders Don’t Expect A Full Recovery From Covid-19 Until 2025, Australasian Leisure Management, (17 March 2021). A majority of sports industry leaders don’t expect a full recovery from COVID-19 until 2025, according to sports strategy agency, The Kinetica Group.
  • Study reveals COVID could be final whistle for fifth of sport for development sector,, (25 January 2021). A report released by the leading third sector consultancy firm, Oaks Consultancy, today has revealed that the pandemic has left more than a fifth of those in the Sport for Development sector fearing for their future. The statistics collated paint a worrying picture, as both a lack of funding and ongoing lockdown legislations continue to weigh heavily on what’s in store for the industry.
  • Case Study: Hockey NSW and SportsEye, ActiveXchange, (2021). Hockey NSW was looking for ways to help more people play. ActiveXchange used SportsEye to assess Hockey's opportunity and focussed their attention to Blacktown as the data showed high levels of demand, low conversation rates, high future unmet demand, and lack of facilities (supply).
  • AFL issues redundancies nationwide as clubs begin to cut assistant coaches, Courtney Walsh, The Australian , (24 August 2020). About 20 per cent of AFL employees were informed on Monday they would lose their jobs after months of uncertainty as the AFL confronts a $400m loss this year.
  • COVID-19 Related National Club Survey, Bowls Australia, (July 2020). In consultation with the State and Territory Associations, a COVID-19 related National Club Survey was drafted by a working group at Bowls Australia (June, 2020). A summary of the key findings obtained from this important survey can be viewed in the infographic.
    • The majority of clubs closed from the dates between March 13-30, up until the time of the survey.
    • It is estimated that Bowls Clubs throughout Australia have suffered a financial impact of at least $136.4M.
    • 670 staff have been directly affected by the virus (loss of hours or termination of employment).
    • 48% of clubs have applied for some form of Government support.
    • 92% of clubs communicated with their members via, email, social media or phone calls.
  • NSW Rugby announce job cuts in wake of COVID-19 challenges, Beth Newman,, (30 June 2020). More than a quarter of NSW Rugby staff have been let go in a restructure that NSW Rugby CEO Paul Doorn said was about the organisation's survival. On Tuesday, NSW Rugby announced it would make 15 roles or 27 per cent of its workforce redundant, while the remainder of the business remains on significant pay cuts for the time being.
  • Supporting Regional Clubs Research: Interim Report, Regional Sport Victoria, (October 2021). Responses to this survey paint a picture of the challenges faced by community club, leagues, and associations throughout regional Victoria, particularly due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These survey results raise concerns in three key areas: the impact of COVID-19 on volunteers, member and volunteer participation and retention, and the demand for grants and other assistance. Some key findings relating to financial issues include:
    • 29% of respondents completed the survey during the strictest lockdown rules for regional Victoria, the easing of restrictions has not made for a more positive outlook for respondents, with many reporting that the stop-start nature of seasons or having no set return to play date making it impossible to plan for future events and meaning, "we're unsure of what the future looks like".
    • For medium-sized clubs of up to 100 members, membership retention was the biggest concern currently. With no competitions or events being held and training in most cases severely impacted, clubs felt that they either could not charge fees or generate the same level of revenue they would usually get from their members and events. They also felt that any strategies they were adopting to retain and increase membership were falling flat as they couldn't really offer anything at the time.
    • On top of losing revenue from the usual streams, the COVID-19 pandemic has also come with added costs. Hygiene measures such as extra soap, hand sanitiser, cleaning products and masks, as well as added signage all come with a cost.
    • 42% of organisations reported a decrease in participants over the past twelve months, whilst 30% saw a decrease in volunteers by an average of 25%.
    • A number of clubs and leagues have adapted with the times and taken approaches that have worked for them. Some initiatives highlighted included, more inclusive uniforms for a netball competition leading to increased participation; moving social and fundraising online; Orienteering Victoria's use of an app so people could participate from home/anywhere; requiring parents to volunteer (or pay a small fee) for children to participate at a Little Athletics centre.
    • Overwhelmingly, community sports organisations are desperate for grants, information on grants, which ones are available, how they go about getting a grant and, most importantly, assistance with grant writing. 55% of the respondents listed grant writing assistance as the main area they needed supporting. Of these respondents, 31% were so stuck with grant writing, and how to write a successful grant, they were willing to outsource and pay someone else to do it for them.
    • The final area where respondents require assistance is with specific educational courses. First aid and CPR and coaching courses are often required for specific roles, but they may not happen in regional and rural areas, or require travel to Melbourne, which adds barriers to participation, including time and cost.
  • Canoe Slalom Recovery Plan: draft for discussion, Paddle Australia, (18 September 2021). The purpose of this Canoe Slalom Recovery Plan (Plan) is to highlight some of the challenges faced in the development of canoe slalom in Australia and to identify initiatives that may assist in overcoming some of the challenges faced by the discipline. While this Plan has been developed in the shadow of COVID-19, its recommendations and initiatives go further than simply being a response to the pandemic.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on Community Sport: September 2021 update, Australian Sports Foundation, (September 2021). The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is taking a serious toll on community sports clubs and organisations across the country. In June 2021, we asked clubs about the ongoing impact that they are facing. Our research highlights key challenges related to disastrous financial instability, reduced participation and declining volunteering. Key findings:
    • An estimated 9000 clubs around Australia are at the risk of going under. Many more clubs simultaneously face reduced revenue and increased running costs, threatening financial stability.
    • 43% of clubs reported reduced participation, most prominent among younger Australians. Both keeping members engaged and finding new members were significant challenges.
    • 42% of clubs lost volunteers due to increased pressures and workload related to implementing COVID-19 protocols.
    • 40% of clubs reported a decline in participation among teens (aged 11-18 years). Young Australians form the lifeblood of community sport and their withdrawal from it is likely to continue to negatively impact clubs in the future
  • PwC’s Sports Survey 2021: Sports industry: ready for recovery?, PwC, (September 2021). This year’s edition covers the growths expectations and key market forces that are expected to transform the sports sector over the next three to five years. It then features three detailed chapters on societal and financial sustainability, major governance reforms of sports organisations as well as reshaping of commercial models. Ready to find out the key drivers to rebuild a better sports industry?
  • Tracking wellbeing outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2021): Continued social and economic recovery and resilience, Biddle, N and Gray, M, Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Social Research and Methods, (May 2021). The aim of this paper is to summarise economic and social wellbeing data from the April 2021 ANUpoll, the seventh in the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods Impact Monitoring Survey program. We find remarkable levels of resilience in Australian society and the economy, with life satisfaction back to what it was prior to the pandemic, and psychological distress at lower levels. Employment rates and average hours worked are not quite back to what they were pre-pandemic, but appear to have not been overly impacted by the removal of JobSeeker and JobKeeper at the end of March. There are still some ongoing areas of policy concern, with a number of Australians fearful of losing their job in the next 12 months, average household income is still well below the pre-COVID levels (and below those observed in November 2020), there are high rates of housing stress and key population groups remaining particularly impacted.
  • Returning to Action: Evaluating Organisational Preparedness in the Wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic, David Barrett and Richard Coleman for Sport and Recreation Alliance [UK], (2021). The research was commissioned to investigate the current outlook for community sport as restrictions are eased, with a particular focus on their readiness to return to action. The survey focusses primarily on voluntary clubs, which are the setting in which around 4 million people regularly take part in sport, though other organisation types, such as private companies and sole traders delivering coaching are included in the findings. An understanding of this sector of the sports’ market is crucial to developing policy responses which will underpin efforts to match and eventually surpass pre-pandemic levels of participation in the community.
  • Queensland Community sport and recreation clubs survey - March 2021 update, Queensland Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport, (March 2021). A follow up survey was conducted in March 2021 to determine if the issues identified in the August survey were ongoing and/or if new issues had emerged. For the second survey, there was a total of 400 responses across 78 activities throughout Queensland. Some of the key insights from the surveys included:
    • In March 2020, the ability for clubs to generate revenue declined once COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, with more than half of respondents reporting a decrease in participant registrations, and almost 60% reporting impacts to their fundraising activities. However, by March 2021, most clubs had either been able to completely resume all activities (30.05%) or continue most or all activities or alternatives (30.05%).
    • For some organisations, there were surprising benefits associated with the pandemic, including ‘an increase in participation registrations’, ‘a better sense of community’, ‘improved hygiene practices’ and ‘the expansion of their online capabilities’.
    • Clubs reported that since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions, ‘maintenance’ expenses and ‘setting up new ways of operating’ expenses both increased.
    • Respondents identified the following key challenges across each survey period:
      • August survey 2020: Health, safety, and hygiene concerns (59%); Administration/administrative load (55%); Obtaining funds (50%); Member retention (48%); Getting new memberships/registration (45%)
      • March survey 2021: Obtaining funds (fundraising/sponsorship) (36%); Administration/load (34%); New memberships/registrations (26%); Volunteer recruitment and retention (25%); Health, safety and hygiene (18%)
  • Families in Australia Survey: Life during COVID-19: Report no. 6: Financial wellbeing and COVID-19, Diana Warren, Jennifer Baxter, Kelly Hand, Australian Institute of Family Studies, (November 2020). Many Australian families have had their finances impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first wave of the Families in Australia Survey, conducted in May and June 2020, we asked respondents how their income (and if applicable their partner's income) had changed. In this report, we explore the actions that people have taken in response to the financial impact of COVID-19 and their levels of concern about their current and future financial situations. We also look at the differences in these actions and concerns depending on how the respondents' financial situations had changed.
  • Queensland Community Sport and Recreation Clubs Survey: Impacts of COVID-19 as at August 2020 Summary of key findings, Queensland Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport, (August 2020). The Survey was conducted to gain insights from clubs into their experiences in resuming activities. Results reveal the pathway out of restrictions and the implementation of a ‘new normal’ has been challenging for many sport and recreation clubs, and those impacts are still being felt. The survey was repeated in March 2021. Some of the key insights thus far include:
    • Of the 73% of respondents who reported ceasing all activities due to COVID-19 restrictions, about 95% have resumed activities to various levels.
    • Almost 90% of respondents reported additional costs involved in getting their clubs fit for play with extra hygiene and cleaning costs identified as the most common expense.
    • The ability to generate revenue had declined once COVID-19 restrictions were imposed in March 2020 with more than half of respondents reporting a decrease in participant registrations, and almost 60% reporting impacts to their fundraising activities. Participation decreases were mainly due to the financial burden and health and safety concerns.
    • Respondents reported their greatest need moving forward was funding (50%).
    • For some organisations, there were surprising benefits including an increase in participation registrations (11%), a better sense of community, improved hygiene practices and the expansion of their online capabilities (69% of respondents indicated they would continue to use online engagement).
  • Financial Wellbeing and COVID 19: CSI response, Jeremiah Brown, Gemma Carey, Jack Noone, Centre for Social Impact, (July 2020). COVID-19 and the associated lockdown measures have had a complex impact on the Australian economy. Some of the impact on the economy from the pandemic has been direct, through the forced closure of some businesses for the duration of lockdown. With employment being a key driver of financial wellbeing for most people (Salignac et al., 2019), shifts associated with employment represent a significant factor for financial wellbeing. Other impacts have been indirect with the changed purchasing habits from households. Prior to the pandemic, there were indications that Australians were not well placed to cope with a large economic shock, with different indicators relating to different areas of financial wellbeing: One third of the Australian private rental market is in housing stress. Australia has the second highest household debt to income ratio in the world. Approximately 30% of Australian households have less than one month of income worth of savings. One in eight Australians would not be able to raise $2,000 within one week in an emergency.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on Community Sport: survey report July 2020, Australian Sports Foundation, (July 2020). The survey results show that community sports clubs are at a crisis point and thousands need urgent and co-ordinated financial support to survive. Key findings include:
    • Australia’s 70,000 Community sports clubs have lost an estimated aggregate $1.6bn to date due to COVID-19. For Small Local Clubs, the average amount lost to date is around $14,900, while for Larger Local Clubs, the average amount lost to date is just over $37,000;
    • The shutdown of community sport from March onwards has had a profound social impact on community sports participants, with a contemporaneous research study showing around 1 in 3 respondents reported worse physical and mental health compared to the year before;
    • Nearly 70% of Small Local Clubs forecast a decline in active participants and 43% project a decline in volunteers. At the same time, around a third of clubs project increased demand for community sport post lockdown, putting them under increased pressure they may be unable to meet due to financial constraints and lack of volunteers;
    • Overall the combination of reduced revenues and increased costs mean that one in four respondents feared for their club’s solvency – indicating over 16,000 community sports clubs nationally are thought to be at risk of closure;
    • On average, Small Local Clubs require additional funding of around $12,600 per club, to assist them through the return to sport, and Large Local Clubs require around $26,800 per club.
  • Indigenous Financial Impacts and Risks and COVID-19: CSI and First Nations Foundation Response, Megan Weier and Phil Usher, First Nations Foundation and Centre for Social Impact, (May 2020). In 2019, our research estimated that across Australia, one in ten Indigenous people who took our survey were classified as financially secure, based on our framework of financial resilience. Additionally, severe financial stress was reported by more than half of the sample. This response looks at the financial impact and risks of COVID19 on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Half of the people that we spoke to in our survey said they did not have any money put away, and just under 40% said they would be able to get $2,000 in a week if there was an emergency. This tells us there is likely to be high levels of high stress for a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the face of an economic downturn. People who are already experiencing high levels of financial stress are going to be hardest hit by an economic recession. Stimulus packages should consider the impact of location when allocating stimulus payments. Where possible, community leaders and financial counsellors should be consulted to determine the priorities for government spending to help reduce economic stress.
  • Sports industry economic analysis: exploring the size and growth potential of the Sport Industry in Australia - Final report, KPMG Sports Advisory for the Australian Government Office for Sport - Department of Health, (March 2020). This Sports Industry Economic Analysis report represents the first step towards the development of a potential Industry Growth Plan. The Australian Sports Industry is estimated to generate approximately $32.2 billion in annual sales, resulting in a contribution to GDP of approximately $14.4 billion and supporting approximately 128,000 full-time equivalent jobs. The Industry value add is estimated to have grown by 13% between 2012/13 and 2016/17.
  • Returning to sport after a COVID-19 shutdown: understanding the challenges facing community sport clubs, Kiera Staley, Erica Randle, Alex Donaldson,, Managing Sport and Leisure, (20 October 2021). Community sport clubs (CSCs) identified eight clusters of challenges related to returning to sport after the COVID-19 shutdown (in highest to lowest mean impact rating order): volunteers; club culture; health protocols; membership; finances; facilities; competition; and governance and division of responsibility. A positive observation in this study was that clubs felt they had the ability/capability to overcome most of the challenges they perceived, but their most pressing concern was the pressure on volunteers to do so. Cluster impact ratings differed by club location, competitive season, venue type, club size, and type of sport offered. Some other key findings included:
    • Sport governing body workforces have been significantly reduced, a challenge clubs identified in this study that has contributed to a perceived lack of guidance, decision-making, and leadership. Therefore, the return to sport relies heavily on club volunteers with limited and frequently conflicting governing bodies or facility management support.
    • Tensions between the “social” dimension of CSCs and the top-down directive to “get in, train, get out”. In essence, the health and safety protocols associated with managing a return to sport in a COVID-19 environment mean that CSCs are forced to focus, largely, on attending to the physical health needs of members. In doing so, clubs are constrained in their ability to contribute to the social and emotional needs of members, at least not in-person.
    • Nine challenges were rated by clubs above the all-statement average for impact and below the all-statement average for ability/capability to overcome. These challenges can be categorised into two broad themes:
      • Managing and delivering sport in an uncertain environment: Planning and structuring a meaningful, competitive season with fluctuating start dates; Budgeting in an uncertain environment; and, Accessing necessary facilities.
      • Maintaining the social environment and the capacity to deliver sport: Engaging participants back to the club; Retaining volunteers in a pressured environment; and, Maintaining club culture in the face of restrictions on how many people can attend the club at one time, and reduced social activities.
  • COVID-19 and the financial crisis in the sports sector around the world, Md. Mahmudul Alam, Ibraheem Ishola Abdurraheem, Sport in Society, Sport in Society, (27 September 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic is not only hugely disrupting the global economy but also virtually bringing the sports sector to its knees. Using a descriptive exploratory study approach, this paper identifies the challenges for the sports industry caused by COVID-19. The findings revealed that COVID-19 has led to shortfalls in revenue, loss of jobs and subsequently high unemployment levels, downturn in standards of living, people’s fitness and general wellbeing, and rises in the cost of living. This study provides policy recommendations to sporting authorities and related bodies to adapt to this situation and find ways to overcome the serious problems created by the pandemic.
  • 2021 Direction of Sport in the Digital Age- Session 1, Vicsport, YouTube, (14 September 2021). Presented by Vicsport and GameDay, The Direction of Sport in the Digital Age is tailored to grassroots sporting clubs, associations, Victorian based SSAs and NSOs based in Victoria. Session 1 dealt with 'Building Revenue in Your Sport' and featured guest presenters Joel Steel from Komo, Andy Edwards from GeoSnapShot, Patrick Walker from the Australian Sports Foundation and Sarah Loh from South Metro Junior Football League.

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