Cost of living chill leaves grassroots sport at risk of big freeze
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Grassroots sport in the South of England is struggling to cope with a double whammy that could threaten community clubs and kick our young people into touch.
New research from charity Sported is highlighting how cost hikes are leaving kids out in the cold as price rises and other cost of living impacts are having a major knock on participation – and on mental health.
And with grassroots organisations acting as a major source of help for our next generation in addressing areas such as wellbeing, crime prevention and social inclusion, the figures illustrate the need for greater support for a sector whose impact is felt on streets up and down the country.
From research undertaken from among Sported’s community groups across the south and south east of England, almost nine in ten of those polled claimed they are concerned about the impacts of the current economic pressures on their group and their young people.
63% of groups are reporting young people facing challenges with reduced mental wellbeing. While 57% have seen cases where those taking part in grassroots sport and physical activities over the past six months have become unable to afford travel costs.
While on the other side of that coin, 51% of group leaders said they have had to deal with a reduction in financial support and rises in insurance costs in a sector where around one-third of groups receive no funding from local government or governing bodies.
These trusted local groups, often led by volunteers, play a critical role in transforming the lives of young people with more than a quarter addressing crime and anti-social behaviour and over half delivering on health and wellbeing.
However 32% of all organisations in the region are expecting drops in participation rates over the coming six months.
Sported’s Pulse survey of October 2023 has flagged up that two-thirds of groups want to do more to improve young people’s health and wellbeing but government and other agencies must realise the value of their efforts and lend their support, said Sported’s Deputy CEO Tom Burstow.
He said: “We see a growing gap at present where grassroots groups are being hit financially by rising costs and with over half telling us that they have significantly dipped into their reserves. However cost of living increases mean there is less spare cash for young people to participate, even when fees have been reduced or made free.
“That not only puts the ecosystem of community sport at risk but also threatens to shut out our next generation from getting the brilliant support they get for their mental health and wellbeing by coming to these clubs, and the benefits society at large reaps from this activity.
“Now, more than ever, sits an opportunity for government at a local and regional level to realise the value of these assets in our communities and work with groups to give young people the opportunities they deserve.”