Grassroots clubs under threat from cost-of-living crisis

The Cost of Living Crisis: The impact on grassroots community sport and recreation, published in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University’s Sport Industry Research Centre and Sport:80, outlines the challenging situation facing clubs across the country this winter.

With energy bills expected to almost double in the coming year, and clubs’ reserves already depleted from COVID-19, these additional costs are likely to be passed on to participants at a time when they can least afford it.

The findings paint a worrying picture for our sector, the participants it supports and the economic and social value it delivers to local communities. The research shows

  • A growing proportion of clubs are in severe financial difficulty, operating with low reserves following COVID-19 – this is currently the case for a quarter of clubs and is expected to rise to a third in the coming year.
  • Rising energy costs are putting the future of our sector at huge risk – bills are expected to almost double in the next 12 months, with much greater increases expected for a number of clubs.
  • Participation opportunities have fallen much more than anticipated, with a 16% drop compared with 2019 – the worsening financial climate is affecting clubs’ ability to provide sport and recreation in their communities.
  • Access to facilities and public spaces is the main concern for over three quarters of clubs – with closures and service restrictions already happening across the country, this is an urgent priority for clubs who depend on them to provide activity.
  • Critically, higher costs will be transferred on to participants– 70% of clubs say they plan to charge members more in fees which will likely impact those on lower incomes and exacerbate existing inequalities in participation.

Responding to the report, Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance said: “Community clubs support millions of people to play and be active every week up and down the country – they are the lifeblood of sport and recreation.

“These clubs are an essential part of our social fabric – they bind communities together through a shared passion and provide the vital first step on the ladder for those who aspire to reach the top of the sporting pyramid.

“Beyond this, grassroot community sport, recreation and physical activity plays a crucial role in supporting the health and wellbeing of the nation. Every year the sector delivers almost £10bn in health savings through the prevention of heart disease and stroke, dementia, diabetes, cancer and depression.

“However, as our latest research shows, rising energy costs and the wider cost of living crisis is putting at risk the long-term sustainability of clubs across the country.

“The wide-reaching benefits grassroot community clubs provide are at risk of being lost if the sector is not supported to survive these challenging times – we need greater recognition of the value our sector creates and a clear commitment to supporting our grassroots clubs and facilities through this difficult period.

“We believe there must be further targeted support to help with rising energy costs for grassroots community clubs and the facilities on which they rely –– this includes the extension of support via the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) beyond March 2023.

“Alongside this, it is time to boost the tax and giving benefits available to grassroots community clubs by uplifting key tax thresholds to ensure their value is not further eroded by inflation and allowing eligible clubs to claim Gift Aid on member subscriptions which would increase their value by 25%.

“We look forward to sharing our findings with Government and sector stakeholders and we will continue to provide support for our members and community sport and recreation clubs to recover from COVID-19 and weather the current cost of living crisis.”

You can read the research summary. The Cost of Living Crisis: The impact on grassroots community sport and recreation’ here

You can read the full research report ‘.COVID-19 recovery and the cost of living: A survey of grassroots clubs and groups’ here