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UK Coaching Team
Organising and Planning

New Initiatives Needed to Help Fuel Recovery for Cash-Strapped Clubs

CEO of Spond Trine Falnes suggests that tapping into the sense of community evoked by COVID-19 can play an important role in the survival of grassroots communities and clubs

The money troubles of professional sports teams continue to hog the headlines, but COVID-19 has proved just as catastrophic for many grassroots clubs. They may not have sacrificed gate receipts or TV revenue, but the collective loss of millions of micropayments has hit hard.

Lockdown led thousands of people to cancel weekly subscriptions, cutting off the lifeblood of most community clubs. With no practices or competition taking place, the money from tens of thousands of pop-up cafes, bars and clubhouses evaporated overnight. But perhaps the biggest hit came as the need for social distancing across the summer saw competitions, tournaments and festivals cancelled in their droves.

These events are big annual money spinners for community organisations and clubs, with the proceeds used to subsidise the fees of participants and fund all manner of essential items. 

For millions, the experience of community sport is priceless. But it is not free. Anyone involved in local sport knows that every club relies on an army of unpaid volunteers to make things happen. Their effort is indispensable: the time we spend playing sports, getting involved in physical activity and sharing common interests makes us fitter, happier and healthier.

In 2019, Spond commissioned Censuswide to conduct a survey of grassroots sport organisations, which indicated that more than half (54%) of coaches had considered quitting due to the challenges they face. 

The key hurdles highlighted were:

  • time spent on admin, with more than a quarter spending more than seven hours purely on admin every single week
  • worries surrounding the lack of funding.

This year, COVID-19 has created an additional level of complexity for the grassroots sport and the physical activity sector, and it’s clear that this is only going to increase the challenges that everyone who works at a community level faces.

Even with coaches and administrators donating millions of pounds of ‘free’ time every year, there are still bills to pay. From the re-seeding of pitches and the rental and upkeep of halls, to the provision of kit or player insurance, the costs quickly add up.

Yet the uncomfortable truth is that many clubs’ finances were already strained even before the pandemic hit. Insight from the Sports and Recreation Alliance shows that in 2018, 45% of grassroots sport clubs only broke even or made a loss. Whilst sport for many is now back underway in ‘the new norm,’ there may be further financial challenges to come.

Will local businesses be so eager to sponsor local teams as they battle their own financial troubles? And with the public finances hit so badly, will central funds be redirected to other sectors?"

How can the Spond App help?

But there is hope and reason for optimism. One of the few positives to come from COVID-19 has been a resurgence of people thinking local and valuing their communities. It strikes me that the key to clubs’ survival looks increasingly likely to come from the goodwill and generosity of local grassroots members. Clubs will do what they’ve always done: get organised and mobilise their people.

At Spond, we’re determined to do our bit to help. Our free app has always been about making organising grassroots sport easier by streamlining and simplifying everything in one app to save organisers hours of administration every week. This has never been more important.

Spond lets you store all your data safely and securely in one place and supports communication with participants. All personal information is processed in accordance with privacy regulations and GDPR - something people say has proved a ‘lifesaver’ at a time when registering every attendance is essential - and track and trace compliance is a priority.

For several years, Spond has helped teams and groups collect payments through the app to tackle the eternal struggle of collecting subs efficiently and easily, and now with the added benefit of avoiding cash-in-hand payments. 

But we’re hearing from users that they need more help when it comes to fundraising. Suggestions have included allowing members to purchase essential goods through the app, with the clubs earning a slice of each sale to generate cash. Or enabling them to quickly stage and collect cash from virtual fundraisers via tickets to online events or raffles. We’re now busy testing prototypes of what this could look like and will aim to roll out new options in the coming months.

These micro-fundraisers could play a small but important role in helping fill funding gaps and replacing lost revenue. Now, more than ever, it’s vital we give grassroots sport the support they need.

I firmly believe that technology, like the Spond app, can play an important role in making volunteering and organising easier and more effective in helping community clubs get back on their feet.

My hope is that a collective effort will ensure that the millions of us who enjoy grassroots sport in our local communities continue doing so for decades to come.

Free Spond App

The award-winning free app that can remove the pain points around grassroots sport organisations, leaving you with the time and energy to do what you love, now has 900,000 monthly active users


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