Future of Amateur Sport “In The Balance”

Results of the 2019 National Sport Club Survey (NSCS), recently undertaken by the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association (NZASA) and Auckland University of Technology’s Sport Performance Research Institute of New Zealand (SPRINZ), reveal that many people deeply involved in amateur sport are not assured of a positive future. A lack of support and resources were identified as pressing issues. Association Chairman, Gordon Noble-Campbell says the need for sport clubs to innovate is becoming urgent, although there are tantalising glimpses of where innovation could have the greatest positive impact for clubs.

Important insights related to membership, governance, and sponsorship have also emerged. The survey revealed that clubs of over 200 members are getting larger and clubs of less than 100 members are getting smaller. This shifting landscape makes it imperative for national sport organisations of all codes to assess how their clubs of various sizes are doing and the optimal size of clubs for the future.  Many clubs reported that finding new people willing to serve in governance roles was a challenge. While it is clear from the data that enthusiastic, long-serving volunteers are the life-blood of many of the country’s sport clubs, new people and ideas are vital to protect against stagnation. Results suggest that the optimal tenure for board/committee members in a sport club is no more than 5 years. Many clubs report having people in leadership roles for much longer. 

At 43%, there are more women involved in club governance than at higher levels within the sector, but in some of New Zealand’s most visible sports (such as Cricket and Rugby Union), there are very few women involved. Just 9% of those volunteering as board or committee members at a sport club are less than 30 years old, which is a missed opportunity to tune into the next generation of sport club members.

With a majority of sport clubs losing money (or merely breaking even) and the future of grant/trust funding uncertain, it is important to better understand commercial sponsorship as a viable alternative. Clubs across codes that are successful in generating sponsorship revenue tend to have a dedicated person or sub-committee as opposed to assigning the job to a single board member with another portfolio. Results also show that substantial club sponsorships are centered on the country’s most visible sports. 

For those at clubs with no sponsorship support there are lingering doubts about whether it’s important or even possible for community sport clubs to generate sponsorship revenue. There is a role for national and regional bodies to inform and upskill club leaders across all codes on how to be more “commercially savvy”. 
Michael Naylor, the Project Lead and SPRINZ Sport Marketing Researcher notes that to ensure sustainability clubs should work closely with governing bodies, consider innovative delivery models, embrace diversity of leadership and invest more resource in establishing non-traditional revenue streams such as sponsorship. 

775 sport clubs representative of about 150,000 members and across all of New Zealand’s 16 regions participated in the 2019 NSCS. New Zealand’s most popular sports including bowls, cricket, football, hockey, netball and rugby were the best represented among more than 70 sports in total. Forums will take place in Wellington (18 November) and Auckland (20 November) to further discuss the survey results and implications.

Contact office@asa.org.nz for more information on the upcoming Forums.