Nearly every sports group is worried about their future
Community sports organisations are warning that the cost of living crisis is damaging access to sport and threatening the vital support delivered to young people throughout Scotland.
In new research for charity Sported, 99% of community sports groups admitted to fears about the impact of cost of living increases on their young people.
Four in five of the groups surveyed expect the crisis will force kids out of participating in activities over the next six months – even when those activities are free.
This means thousands of young people will be missing out on sport and physical activity opportunities which play a huge part in their development, helping them deal with a wide range of issues.
These groups are frequently located in the country’s most deprived areas where sport plays a vital role in combating key social issues such as anti-social behaviour, mental health issues and knife crime and in making a real difference in the daily lives of some of the UK’s most marginalised people.
With groups facing increased costs from venue hire and energy bills, many fear for their group’s long-term viability. 77% of community sports groups in Scotland have already been forced into changes to offset the impact of cost of living increases.
This includes reducing membership fees, offering fewer sessions per week, or reducing the number of young people that can take part.
Some 60% of community groups need between £1,000 - £9,999 to support their cost of living priorities over the next six months but almost half reported a drop in financial support (such as from local businesses, trusts and foundations) for their vital work in the community.
Given that the majority of groups survive on less than £10,000 per year, this funding shortfall could prove critical to their survival.
Grassroots sports groups are the cornerstone of their community. They not only provide safe and affordable access to sport and physical activity but the trusted environment offered also has a deep, long-lasting impact on young people.
Sported wants to ensure that all young people can continue to access the benefits of community sport through the current crisis, as well as enabling all groups to have equal access to affordable, sustainable and safe facilities.
Nicola Walker, chief executive of Sported, explained: “With Scotland, young people are facing so many challenges at present. Covid-19 has already disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged members of society, widening inequalities, and creating a time bomb in terms of mental health.
“The cost of living crisis will only exacerbate this.
“I know just how responsible our community groups feel for helping young people and many groups feel they are letting them down at a time when they most need help.
“I am alarmed that many groups will be forced to reduce their sessions or even close, which would have terrible lasting impact on young people and their local communities.”
Joe Sneddon, chair of Inch Park Community Sports Club in Edinburgh, said: “We’ve seen an increase in families coming to us for support because they can’t afford to keep sending their kids. Their fees are already subsidised but it’s still too much and we’re seeing more of that.
“You’ve also got kids dropping out where families don’t want to admit it’s down to finances. We’ve created a fund to offer free places at our core clubs to offset some of that. But we are expecting it to get worse and worse.
And even away from sport, we’re now doing even more to look at other ways to help the community such as food banks and a community café that meet the demand from those who are struggling.”