Community sports clubs are thriving despite the economic downturn, according to the biggest ever survey of sports clubs in Britain, conducted by CCPR, the umbrella body for sporting organisations in the UK.
Every other year, CCPR commissions an independent survey of community sports clubs in order to take the temperature of grassroots sport. The results, compiled from the 3,000 clubs that took part, show that sports clubs seemed to be weathering the economic storm. 34% of clubs have shown a growth in adult memberships and 40% have shown an increase in junior membership.
Tim Lamb, chief executive of CCPR, says that:
"Sports clubs not only give people the opportunity to participate in healthy activities, but they also provide a social and family element that allows people to become part of a community.
"Many clubs are still struggling to keep their heads above water in difficult economic circumstances, but people are joining because they recognise the good value that sports club membership represents. Average annual adult subscription fees are £52 per annum compared to an average gym membership of £500 per annum.
"Hopefully, what we're beginning to see is the fruit of policies designed to deliver a legacy from the Olympic Games, bringing more people into more clubs.
"It shouldn't be any surprise that people are joining their local sports club despite the current financial downturn - communities tend to come to the fore during crises and sports clubs are at the very heart of communities."
The survey also highlighted the importance of volunteers, with the average club run by 21 volunteers. In fact, more than three quarters of clubs rely on volunteers for management and administration, coaching, officiating, fundraising and club development.
Tim Lamb adds:
Volunteering is critical to the viability of clubs. Without volunteers there is no question that most clubs would not exist.
"Very often, people will join a club simply to play their sport, but over time will begin to volunteer, coach or administer, something that enriches not only their club and community but also their own lives.
"Sports clubs are a great way of building 'social capital' – networks of relationships and values shared between individuals – and that's something people perhaps appreciate more in hard times."