Blog entry by Chris Accipio

Anyone in the world

The Club Matters team expresses their sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the late Svend Elkjaer, founder and director of The Sports Marketing Network. Svend’s passion for his work and constant desire to improve the sporting sector was evident in the work we, and others, did with him. The thought-provoking blogs and ideas Svend contributed will continue his legacy and inform the work of many more. In remembrance of Svend, Club Matters wishes to share his ‘More than a club’ blog article.

Working to place your sports club, group or organisation at the heart of its community helps you to reach new audiences, develop local links and support your sustainability. Even if your organisation focuses on performance, there might still be a role your organisation can play locally that will benefit you as well as the community around you. Explore the links at the end of the post for more information. 

 In this blog post Svend shared his thoughts on developing the role of clubs and groups within communities. 

At a time when there is an increased focus on how we can create more cohesive communities, there seems to be considerable scope for sports clubs and groups to play a pivotal role. At the same time, many clubs, groups and other providers could benefit greatly from the added value of engaging with new audiences in terms of users, volunteers, sponsors and community partners.

 The challenge is that some sports clubs suffer from 'sporting myopia', where success is measured in terms of sport alone – for example, focusing on the number of users or members, or on the performance of the first team or the elite athletes with everything else geared up to support them. What happens out in the community and the 'real world' might then be regarded as somewhat secondary.  

 But there are many examples where sports clubs and groups have benefitted in terms of membership and income from playing a stronger role in their communities. And with a stronger focus on sport's ability to change people's lives, there is even greater scope for clubs and groups to play a bigger role in their communities and in the lives of people around them and become ‘More than a Club’.

Your club's approach to community engagement - where do you stand?

Ask people from across your club/group which of the following best represents where they think you stand right now:

1. We are fully committed to working with everybody within our community, be it sport or non-sport partners.  Our community programme is fully integrated within our club/enterprise and we are seen as a hub that attracts potential partners.

2. We are developing our community programme and although we still have a way to go, we are fully committed to this and we are fully aware of the benefits.

3. We need to focus harder on getting engaged with the community.

4. We'll talk to people from the community if they come to us…but why should they?

5. Community - what has that got to do with sports?

Being ‘More than a Club’ means your organisation literally sits in the middle of its community and it can, and should, play a vital role for its community. This can also help you attract more skilled and passionate volunteers as a wider range of people will want to be involved. Such clubs and groups can also generate more income as more people come to their activities, matches and events, support fundraising and offer sponsorship opportunities – it really is that simple.

For more details and some great case studies on becoming ‘More than a Club’ you can watch this video. (You may need to register with GoToStage for access).

Create shared value with the rest of your community

What is shared value and how could it work for your sports club or group? Shared value for sports clubs and other activity providers can be defined as a new kind of partnership, in which both the club and the community contribute directly to the strength and development of each other. This is not about sharing value that already exists. It is about expanding the current pool of value and finding new ways to create synergy that benefit everyone involved.

Try the shared value test – ask your club or group and your current/potential community partners:

What can we do for you? 

What can you do for us? 

What can we do together?

Becoming a hub, not just a club

Many successful, non-traditional community sport/activity providers regard the success of their community engagement as just as important as the outcomes of their sporting activities. Often, because their roots are in the community, they can design and deliver their programmes to suit people's real needs, instead of focusing on sporting outcomes alone. 

Try taking your club or group into your community – you can hold demonstrations in shopping centres, parks and housing estates or invite people to fun and informal 'have a go' sessions. Find out where potential users and volunteers might be, take your activities to them and find ways to engage them and understand their needs. Once you’ve done this, you can create an offer that fits what people want – not just what your club or group thinks it should be doing. By taking a similar approach, sports clubs have the opportunity to open up to their communities and become a hub that welcomes everyone.

Useful links from Club Matters

·         Reaching different audiences - website section

·         How to create an inclusive environment

·         Understanding your participants

·         Maximising community use of facilities – Wigan St Judes ARLFC

[ Modified: Monday, 3 October 2022, 10:41 AM ]