Community Sports Clubs' response to COVID-19 (new research)

2 October 2020

SPORT is a major contributor to Scotland’s health, wellbeing and economy, but a huge proportion of that relies on volunteers. 

Community Sports Clubs ’ Report _coverimageWhile the UK and Scotland are among the highest sport employers per head of population globally, volunteers provide the foundations and pillars within many sports (Observatory for Sport in Scotland). A new report looks at how community sports clubs have adapted to the restrictions imposed during the covid-19 crisis, based on interviews in England and Scotland, conducted in late July and early August, 2020.

Authors Dr Fiona Reid (OSS Research Adviser), Lindsay Findlay-King (University of Northumbria) and Geoff Nichols (University of Sheffield) conducted this qualitative study sampling a diverse range of sports, namely:

  • Badminton 
  • Bowls 
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics 
  • Hockey 
  • Mountaineering
  • Riding for the Disabled
  • Rugby 
  • Swimming 
  • Squash 
  • Tennis 
  • Yachting

The report describes in fascinating detail how with the help of volunteers, sports have adapted in order to continue but also how facilities have been maintained as rules have changed. There is a particular focus on the role of sports clubs to maintain member benefits and especially the social rewards of membership (social contact and social facilities).  

"to return (their) club activities as closely as possible to pre-lockdown. This involved considerable work in adapting the sport, adapting the facility, interpreting frequently changing government guidelines and assessing risks. Volunteers had to cope with considerable uncertainty."

The report highlights the role of volunteers.

The finding around social rewards is particularly relevant to the work of Volunteer Scotland where we've shown (and continue to explore) the inter-relationships between participation, volunteering and social capital. 

There were very many more impacts uncovered through the report, both positive (e.g. the use of digital technology for meetings, social events and just keeping in touch) and negative (e.g. the reduction in new members and ability to fundraise). 

It was interesting to find that for the clubs interviewed, volunteer numbers and effort was largely being sustained. 

Looking forward the report asks an important question around the role of sports clubs as a community resource (with implications for policy-makers, funders and others). With a growing need for community level support for those suffering physical and mental health, sport clubs we know provide benefits in both areas. 

Despite a positive picture in terms of volunteering effort short-term, the crisis seems likely to have a detrimental impact on membership, volunteering and perhaps even the viability of sports clubs in future. 

Read the full report (opens in a new page)


A facinating report, please feel free to email your views