Amateur sport is a social good.

In education (whether primary, secondary or tertiary) and throughout life, amateur sport (based around the pursuit of games which by definition exist for enjoyment through active participation, as a player, supporter or volunteer):

  • provides valuable lessons on social interaction;
  • builds social cohesion (creating community links between those with common sporting interests);
  • establishes goals and boundaries (within which individual and team goals can be attained);
  • teaches strategies to deal with adversity and human frailty; and
  • develops strategies to achieve collective outcomes, (particularly in the case of team sports).

Amateur sporting clubs have traditionally provided the framework for these benefits to be developed, maintained and progressed from childhood, through adolescence and into adult life.

Among other purposes, amateur sporting clubs have existed as a means to:

  • organise games in a safe, structured and competitive way;
  • efficiently raise funds for this purpose;
  • maintain a set of rules around participation in an egalitarian and meritorious manner; and
  • create a safe environment in which social interaction outside of the game can occur.

Increasing professionalism in many New Zealand traditional sports has changed the purpose of participation for many, particularly younger people, creating new incentives (for those in pursuit of a sporting career) and new disincentives (for those with life and career aspirations outside of sport).

In New Zealand, professionalism has been primarily experienced in traditional sports, but is certainly not exclusive to newer sports, where (to date) youth (in particular) have gravitated to realise the benefits of participation without the pressure of performance, selection, ranking and the associated impedance on the other aspects of their lives.

Many sports currently preferred by today's youth are those where, the weight of performance expectation is least and where the opportunity for fun is perceived to be greatest. However the current state (for any sporting code) is not necessarily synonymous with its future state.

An unintended consequence of increased professionalism has been seen in a marked drop-off in participation rates in traditional sports and membership of sporting clubs, where the arm and reach of professionalism is strongest, resulting in traditional organisational frameworks coming under pressure and different models being considered or created.

With justification, people will question the purpose of becoming the member of a club whose goals are not considered to be aligned to their own and where organisational strategies are increasingly focused on creating achievement at the elite level.

In this regard, many amateur sporting clubs have fallen (or are falling) victim to the conveyor-belt of professional elitism, with their core purpose becoming more closely aligned to commercial goals. In doing so, they are losing the fundamental connection to their local communities and the core values on which they were formed.

It is tempting to propose that the "old world" is no longer valid and that a "brave new world" is required. That may be a mistake, in that the organisational structure of sport should not define its value proposition. Rather, it may well be an organisational failure in maintaining the core sporting values on which the sporting organisation was formed.

In that respect, an amateur sporting club is an organisational expression of the participant’s desire to participate, with the benefits previously outlined. An organisational framework is a mechanism for delivering these benefits, but must not become a barrier to maintaining core values and increasing participation.

With the above thoughts and philosophy in mind, the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association Inc. was formed at a meeting of Founding Members on Wednesday, 26 April 2017, in the Scott Room of the Wellesley Boutique Hotel, Maginnity Street, Wellington, New Zealand.

The resolutions to incorporate and adopt the draft Constitution were unanimously agreed by those present, with the result that the Association was formally incorporated as the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association Incorporated (2669211) under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908, on 28 April 2017.

This is not the first time that an Association for amateur sport has been formed in Australasia.

A century ago, amateurism and professionalism in sport had an adversarial relationship.

In 1908, the Australian Amateur Sporting Federation was formed on the basis of separating athletes into two specific non-associated groups, with an “amateur” defined as “one who never competed for money, whether in the form of a prize, stake, bet, or declared wager, or knowingly competed against a professional, or taught, pursued, assisted, or practised any athletic exercise as a means of livelihood, or for pecuniary gain.”

The New Zealand Amateur Sports Federation was formed in 1913, observing that “the difference between a professional and an amateur was that one entered into sport for the pleasure of the game, and the other was there to get what he could get out of it.”

The formation of the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association does not renew that historical debate, given that amateurism and professionalism now co-exist across a number of sporting codes enjoyed by New Zealanders.

Rather, in the current era, the concept of an association to represent the interests of amateur sports people is not unique, with a number of organisations globally, championing amateur interests.

Among other goals, the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association has been formed to:

  • advocate, promote and support the role of amateur sporting clubs in fostering the growth of vibrant New Zealand communities;
  • ensure the status, rights and well-being of youth considering professional sporting careers are well considered and represented; and
  • encourage all professional sporting codes to maintain appropriate and distinct development pathways, incentives and recognition for their amateur participants.

“We see professional sport, but we live amateur sport.”