Sporting clubs left in limbo amid coronavirus pandemic

Club presidents Steve Kuerschner, Mick Kerin and Mick Foote with major sponsor representatives Tabitha Jones and Andrew Beinke from Sundrop.
Club presidents Steve Kuerschner, Mick Kerin and Mick Foote with major sponsor representatives Tabitha Jones and Andrew Beinke from Sundrop.

The Australian Sports Foundation has launched a campaign to help determine the impact on community sports clubs from the COVID-19 pandemic and to quantify the funding challenges facing community clubs across Australia.

Following a pilot survey by the Australian Sports Foundation in April, responses showed that there are significant problems that may lead to many community clubs falling by the wayside.

Australian Sports Foundation chief executive offier Patrick Walker said there was a crisis in Australian community sport.

"To the general public it may seem like the crisis is coming to an end with openings of community sports clubs across Australia, but there are issues ahead that haven't been addressed," he said.

Trying to reopen and get members back onto sports fields is where the crisis for grass roots clubs will really start.

"Sports clubs will face issues from loss of income because local sponsors have suffered or because members can't afford to rejoin as they have lost their jobs and the double whammy of additional costs through having to implement new cleaning and sanitising regimes," Mr Walker said.

The survey determined Australia's 70,000 community sports clubs need funding support to the tune of $1.2 billion to survive the effects of the crisis.

Community sports clubs have already lost an estimated $1.6 billion to date due to Covid-19 and with lockdowns continuing in parts of Australia and sport still in jeopardy, this figure is set to rise.

After much back and forth, the South Augusta Football Club eventually opted to participate in the Spencer Gulf Football League's last minute decision to go ahead with the season.

Club President Michael Kerrin said the four-month forced closure will significantly impact their annual income.

"Originally we voted against having an SGL season this year. This was based entirely on Covid-19 requirements that would have impacted our already committed volunteer group," he said.

"We changed our minds and voted yes at the second vote due to the lessening of Covid-19 requirements, the enthusiastic support of our players and most importantly the increase in our volunteer numbers."

"On the negative side there are some patrons and players who have not returned to the club since we re-opened and the shortened SGL and PACFL seasons got underway."

The Australian Sports Foundation believe survival of thousands of clubs is under threat if financial support is not provided quickly.

Responses to the survey showed that community clubs have little in the way of capital or cash reserves, with over half of all clubs reporting less than six months funds available.

Mr Kerrin agreed that there has not been enough government support for community clubs in the wake of the global pandemic.

"Spending on sports clubs (not just football) is an investment in the physical and mental health of communities," he said.

"All sports clubs give community members a reason to get involved in some way. If they fold there is a lot of people of all ages left with nothing to do.

"I shudder to think what would happen to the physical and mental health of people if they no longer had a club to belong to."

To participate in the Australian Sports Foundation campaign visit covid.sportsfoundation.org.au. The survey runs until Wednesday, June 3.

The Australian Sports Foundation is Australia's leading non-profit sports fundraising organisation and charity, and the only organisation to which donations for sport are tax-deductible.

In the last 30 years the Foundation has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to Aussie sports clubs.