Rise in energy bills and reduced support is hitting groups hard
Cost of living pressures are Scottish grassroots groups dealing with sport and physical activity at risk.
The Sported / Ring Community Pulse survey of almost 250 community-based groups across Scotland found that over nine in 10 were “extremely or fairly concerned” about the impact of increased costs on their operations.
Some 44% say they have been hit by a significant rise in energy bills over the past six months, and 42% with a reduction in financial support.
With 35% of the clubs and organisations responding operating in the 30% most deprived areas of the country - and most run and operated by volunteers - the current challenges in play threaten the infrastructure that gives young people an opportunity to be active and to address many of society’s pressing issues such as mental health and crime prevention.
Sported, which offers free resources and funding to groups in its network in Scotland, identified from group leaders that 77% of them are concerned that cost of living increases are impacting on the mental health of the young people they work with.
Three in four see that the economic pressures are causing disengagement or reduced participation in sport and physical activity. And, troublingly, 74% are already witnessing young people who are not able to afford fees or subscriptions to play.
In the longer term, almost four in ten of those surveyed by Sported believe cost of living hits will lead to drops in young Scots being active, with 29% seeing consequences of families and kids not having enough money and facing financial hardship.
Richard McShane, who heads Easterhouse Phoenix, a community club in the East side of Glasgow offering the likes of boxing, taekwondo, and table tennis said: “The biggest crime in our area is neglect. The young people aren’t given enough opportunity. And the average age that a male in Easterhouse reaches in good health is 57. The challenge is to increase that and the one way to do it is getting more people active.
“And for us, that means providing something that many of them cannot afford. We can keep the prices low because 90% of our work is done by volunteers, whether it’s boxing or cycling or other activities. There’s a need there in the community and we understand it.
“We have one volunteer, Eric, who originally came along and for three weeks, he didn’t speak to anyone. He’d struggled to get work. We put him on a leadership course. Now he runs our table tennis sessions and leads the cycling group. He supports the young lads and lassies with their wellbeing. He was on medication for 35 years for depression and back pain.
"He’s off them now. And he’s been named as the Community Sport Volunteer of the Year. Eric’s a prime example of how you can change people’s lives at that grassroots level.”
Tom Burstow, deputy CEO of Sported, said: “It costs a huge amount to run a grassroots sports club. And there are various challenges, whether they are based in a major city like Glasgow or in our rural communities.
“Some 85% of our groups don’t own their own facility. So you have the 15% who have enormous facility costs and energy prices sky rocketing. And then the remainder are reliant on the costs set for them and those have risen exponentially as well.
“During Covid, there were a lot of emergency funds and those groups managed to survive. That same level of funding isn’t there now. But many groups are having to manage increased costs on less money.
“We want every young person to have a chance to realise their potential. The groups are at the heart of their communities and we fear that if they are lost, young people will be more susceptible to risk.”