Financial worries of pandemic impact on community sports group leaders

Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·3-min read

The ability of community sports groups to survive the financial impact of the pandemic has created above-average levels of anxiety in group leaders, according to new research.

A survey of 160 leaders commissioned by community groups network Sported found their average anxiety levels were 4.1 compared to the Office of National Statistics national average of 3.05 for 2020.

That anxiety was particularly felt around whether a group would come through the crisis financially – where the average score was 5 – and even more so around the group’s participants, where the average score was 5.8. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of group leaders in the latest Community Pulse survey were concerned about whether participants would return when restrictions were lifted.

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Eighty six per cent of those surveyed though described themselves as “confident” that their group would still be in existence in six months’ time, however.

The financial impact of the pandemic has been keenly felt at the elite level of sport in the UK and worldwide.

The Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters said the disruption to the 2019-20 season cost his organisation and its clubs £700million, and said last October that clubs stood to lose a further £547m if crowds could not go above 25 per cent for the whole of the current season.

The second wave has meant that even fewer spectators than anticipated have actually attended matches, so the final cost is likely to be far higher.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has spoken about the economic impact of the pandemic
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has spoken about the economic impact of the pandemic (PA)

In the EFL, chairman Rick Parry said his clubs needed £250million to see them through the season due to the loss of matchday revenue from the end of 2019-20 and the whole of 2020-21.

The Premier League and EFL agreed a rescue package to assist lower-league clubs, while other sports affected by the pandemic have required Government support in the form of winter and summer survival packages, each said to be worth £300m.

On an international level, the total cost of postponing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games by a year and putting in place countermeasures to prevent the spread of coronavirus was put at 2.8billion US dollars (just over two billion pounds) by organisers in December last year.

In grassroots sport, Sport England played a crucial role in providing emergency funding to clubs in danger of closure.

From March 29 organised outdoor sport for children and adults can resume as
part of the Government’s ‘road map’ for the easing of coronavirus restrictions, and this survey from Sported – conducted in January and February of this year – found 87 per cent of groups were confident of being able to reopen at that point.

More than a quarter of respondents cited knowledge of funding opportunities as an area where they needed support now, and Sported hopes to assist groups in doing so.

Its chief executive Nicola Walker said: “Anxiety levels remain high among our group leaders, for themselves, their young people and their organisations. This research shows it to be higher than the UK average.

“Community group leaders require a lot of support to get back to where they were supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of young people.

“Sported is here to help and guide groups and support them on that journey, particularly by continuing to highlight relevant funding and offering support in filling in these applications.”