The Australian Sports Foundation is launching a national campaign to help it determine the impact on community sports clubs from the COVID-19 pandemic and to quantify the funding challenges facing community clubs across Australia.
Following a pilot survey by the Australian Sports Foundation in April, responses showed that there are significant problems that may lead to many community clubs falling by the wayside.
"There is a crisis in Australian community sport, which presents a real risk to the physical and mental health of our communities.
"To the general public it may seem like the crisis is coming to an end with mooted openings of community sports clubs across Australia, but there are issues ahead that haven't been addressed yet. Trying to reopen and get members back onto sports fields is where the crisis for grass roots clubs will really start," Patrick Walker, CEO of the Australian Sports Foundation said.
Sports clubs will face issues from loss of income because local sponsors have suffered or because members can't afford to rejoin as they have lost their jobs, and the double whammy of additional costs through having to implement new cleaning and sanitising regimes.
Great Southern Football League club, Yankalilla is one sporting body that has declared its intention to not participate in 2020, due to uncertainty of a starting date and the restrictions placed on crowd attendances.
President of the Yankalilla Football Club Bob Williss stated the club committee decided "that playing a half season with restrictions will be a detriment".
"This decision was not made lightly, but we feel it is the right one," he said.
Mr Williss explained that the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and the limited numbers allowed through the gate with no bar or canteen made it difficult for the club to operate.
However, president of the GSFL Terry Corcoran said there was a number of factors that could stop any recommencement of the season.
"Yankalilla have gone a little early, but their decision will not change the timeline the league has in place before making a final decision. We agree with Yankalilla, we need to have supporters (crowds) through the gate. No revenue from the social clubs or canteens would impact on the finances of clubs," Mr Corcoran said.
"A number of clubs have their canteen located in their licensed areas and with the current restrictions, they would be unable to operate. The other important one, would be if any club was not compliant with the necessary protocols, they would be unable to play at all."
Mr Corcoran said the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic had effected everyone's way of normal life, as all sports had been affected.
"With the GSFL clubs, the costs of playing football and running a football club has placed abnormal pressures on the volunteers, who are in the positions to ensure the clubs are able to function and cover the costs. This is very challenging," he said.
"For clubs to be expected to get onto the park with no revenue from areas such as the gate, social club or canteen makes it very difficult."
The GSFL has had meetings with the 10 clubs to work and manage a direction back to playing the game, and Terry and the executive of the GSFL have been listening to the concerns of the clubs and the advice from health authorities, the government and SANFL.
"If everything falls into place the expected commencement of the GSFL season will be on Saturday, July 11, playing a revised program from round 10 to the finals. The grand final would be scheduled for Saturday, October 3, at Langhorne Creek," he said.
The The Australian Sports Foundation campaign will be based on a mass survey of community clubs to help determine additional funding needs and the best way for the Australian Sports Foundation to assist clubs find the funding to open and get their members back to doing what they love.
"We know there are clubs who need help and we need to hear from them. If the Australian Sports Foundation doesn't know you exist, we can't help you. Please take the time to tell us how your club has been impacted, and to encourage other community clubs to do the same. We will use the information to raise funds and advocate for more support for community clubs," Mr Walker said.
As Australia's national sports charity, the Australian Sports Foundation is uniquely able to channel philanthropic funding to community clubs and this is a key objective of the campaign.
"Sport has the power to bring communities together, to break down social barriers and to improve the health and mental wellbeing of everyone. It will play a vital role as our communities recover from this crisis, and we want to make sure that our community sports clubs are able to survive and help that process," Mr Walker said.
To participate in this campaign and ensure your club's voice is heard, or to find out more, visit: covid.sportsfoundation.org.au
The survey opened Wednesday, May 20 and runs until Wednesday, June 3.
About the Australian Sports Foundation
The Australian Sports Foundation is national sports charity. Over the past 30 years the Sports Foundation has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to thousands of Australian sporting clubs to help develop an inclusive and active sporting nation, strengthening local communities.