Blog | New Zealand Amateur Sport Association Inc.
   

$30 million will go a long way to saving community sport. One-third of the Government’s short-term support package of $83 million should be applied to a new “Kids in Clubs” programme, providing vouchers enabling children of families experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship to join their community sports club.

The Government's $265 million Sport-Recovery-Package is a significant financial promise to sport in New Zealand. While a welcome development, what it is actually used for, how it is accessed and distributed, and who benefits, are all still largely unknown.

 
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New Zealand Amateur Sport Association President, Andy Leslie MNZM, is sending an open-letter to all New Zealand local authorities, requesting financial relief from all council levies for local community sport organisations and clubs, arising from COVID-19.

The letter will be sent to the 78 City, District and Regional Councils in New Zealand, which provide facilities and services, at a cost, to local community sport clubs and organisations. A waiver of these costs for 12 months is proposed.

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The impact of two World Wars on New Zealand community sport was profound. The values of sport were seen as creating the foundations of military victory, with the inter-war years seeing a flourishing of sport participation and club membership.

Over 75 years later, many of the challenges facing community sport may well require a revival of post-War values, as New Zealand society grapples with the social and financial impacts of COVID-19 on membership of, and participation in, community sports clubs.

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New Zealand's community sports clubs could lose at least half of their annual income as a result of COVID-19. Without grant-funding and membership-fees, their very survival may rely on their reserves, or Government support. 

A review of the financial statements of a sample of 10 leading incorporated sports clubs with a combined annual income of over $2 million, representing 10 different sporting codes in the Wellington region, shows that on average, 25% of their total annual revenue is derived from grant-funding. When combined with membership subscriptions, on average around half of the annual income of the sample is generated from these two income sources alone.

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Community clubs will need to lead the recovery of sport post COVID-19, with amateur values based on volunteers essential for organised sport’s survival. Hurricanes Chairman, Iain Potter, is in no doubt that the current crisis has emphasised the value of community sport and its importance in bringing communities back together.

Noting that 2020 is likely to be “a bit of a disaster” in terms of community rugby being played, Potter is clear that the current crisis will be a timely reminder that “rugby starts at the community level”. “The reality is that the nature of every rugby club in Wellington and the spirit of every rugby club across the country is volunteerism”. 

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While sportspeople and sporting communities across the country eagerly await the lifting of restrictions on community sporting activities, both on-field and off-field, there is a challenge for all sporting codes to describe what will constitute a “safe” environment for playing sport and socialising around sport, in the future. 

To move community sport “from crisis to confidence”, an open and honest discussion by all community sport stakeholders with government and health-authorities will be required, with the Association willing to support this process through its comprehensive network and database of New Zealand community sport clubs.

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Is it wise to co-mingle the finances and operations of not-for-profit sport organisations with for-profit affiliates? Formal separation of entities may ensure the commercial failure of one, will not result in the community failure of the other.

Given the current financial challenges for community sport in New Zealand, the risks of “co-mingling finance and operations” are worth considering.

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How will communities overcome their fear of COVID-19 when contact sport resumes? Sports' administrators need to focus on defining what a “safe” playing environment looks like, to be able to reassure the community that “it’s O.K. to play”, when the current crisis ends.

Whether (or not) “social-distancing” or actual incidences of illness arising from COVID-19 give rise to a symmetrical stigma concerning physical contact with strangers in community sport, should be of urgent and careful consideration by administrators of sporting codes which require random (and often uncontrolled) physical contact.

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On both sides of the Atlantic, major sporting codes are suffering from COVID-19, with traditional commercial models exposed (perhaps fatally) by social isolation policies implemented in most countries, (apart from the Belarusian Premier League, or “Vysheyshaya Liga” which is continuing to play to packed stadiums, regardless).

In the United States, Major League Rugby has been cancelled for 2020, with franchise-owners honouring salary payments to players, while in the UK, Premier League Club owners are looking to the Government for a financial hand-out. Without money, it seems, the sporting world’s engine has seized. The Association spoke with Scott Lawrence (USA Rugby) and Andrew McKenna (TalkSport) about the new world of sport in America and the UK.

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Following the implementation of a Relief Package to support community sport organisations, there is an equally urgent need to develop a Recovery Plan which returns confidence to New Zealand’s sporting communities.

The Recovery Plan will need to involve a nationwide “It’s O.K. To Play” publicity campaign, together with a joint-funding approach from Central Government and the business community, supported by a comprehensive review of National Sport Organisation governance.

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The Association says there is an urgent for a COVID-19 relief package to be provided to incorporated community sports clubs from local and central government.

The relief package proposed by the Association comprises: an immediate cash-injection; regulatory relief from section 23 of the Incorporated Societies Act; and a waiver of local authority fees on use of sports grounds.

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The Final Report for the 2019 National Sport Club Survey (NSCS) has been released and is available for download. The (NSCS) aims to generate insights that can be used to improve sport for all New Zealanders. While other sport industry data exists at individual level this survey provides a unique snapshot of the sport sector at club level.

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Conventional sporting wisdom suggests that community clubs experiencing financial difficulty arising from increasing costs, reducing income, (or a combination of the two factors), amalgamate with a neighbouring club to remain viable.

In many cases, the stronger of the merged entities declares the amalgamation to be a success, while the entity acquiescing to amalgamation experiences disappointment (and disappears). While amalgamation generally infers an "equal merger", it can quickly become an "unequal takeover" by the stronger of the amalgamating parties.

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If you visit any Secondary School or Club, upon entering you will more than likely be greeted by a cabinet of gleaming trophies, representing the success of the various teams that the School or Club supports. Signs of success such as these are important in establishing the value of the sporting community (or "tribe"), as it seeks to differentiate itself from others with similar goals.

Historically, the pride in the display was intended to demonstrate the values of the community through sport. More often than not, trophies on display will be named after a person (or persons), whose contribution to the sporting community has resulted in their values and success being idealised in the trophy being competed for. 

 
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When it comes to longevity, Japan holds a number of unique records when it comes to the game of Rugby Union. The game has been played in Japan for over 150 years, with the Yokohama Football Club formed in 1866, four years before New Zealand’s first recognised game featuring the Nelson Football Club, and more than 20 years before the New Zealand Rugby Union was even conceived.

At the Golden-Oldies Rugby Tournament held in Christchurch this week, “For The Love Of The Game’ had the opportunity to talk to 80 year old Koichi Seino. Seino-san is certainly one of the oldest active rugby players in the world in the current era and he was the oldest player at the Christchurch Tournament.

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One of the biggest obstacles to the growth and well-being of amateur sporting clubs nationally may be the increasing insistence of high-schools to charge students who want to join school teams which play in local sporting competitions.

While the cost of participation varies by sporting code, it’s not uncommon for families to be asked to stump up over $100 per child, before the costs of clothing and equipment.

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Te Upoko o Te Ika radio has teamed up with the New Zealand Amateur Sports Association to produce and broadcast a new programme called ‘The Amateur Sports Hour’, on 1161AM and via the internet on tunein.com.

Click on this story to read more and listen to the latest programme.

If you'd like to have your amateur sport club, personality or story broadcast on the show, contact the Association for more details.

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