How your football club can become a community hub

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The notion of ‘sport for sport’s sake’ which implies that sport sits in glorious isolation from the rest of the communities it is supposed to serve simply is no longer valid.

Great sports clubs/providers work for and with their communities, and as a consequence, both parties benefit. They are in reality Hubs for their Communities. They link up their assets, skills and relationships with people, groups and institutions in their communities.

The benefits of this approach can be considerable in terms of growing membership and volunteer base, increasing income and helping to ensure that the club and the community is sustainable in the long-term.

One of the key aspects of every successful sports club and any other sports provider I have been in contact with is that they see themselves as a key part of their community and see themselves being in a two-way relationship where both parties benefit.

At the same time, it saddens me to see so many of our clubs and often even bigger ones, who ignore their communities for ages and live in their own world. But then when they fall on hard times, they suddenly demand support and money from the community they profess to serve, but in reality, they have ignored. If you want your community to support you, you must build up a big surplus in your Goodwill Account in the Community Bank. This is also called generating social capital - more about that later.

I would also like to emphasise that Community Relevance is a key aspect of making your club sustainable. In my experience, a sports club which exists in splendid isolation from the community it is supposed to serve will find it virtually impossible to achieve sustainability.

Achieving relevance in the eyes of the community enables a sports club to demonstrate its value on a regular basis.

When times get tough, a sports club with high community relevance is seen as a community asset rather than an isolated, self-interested group with a financial problem.

A question your club has to ask yourself: If for some reason your club folded how many people within your community would really miss you?

Myopic clubs which are irrelevant to their community can expect to face certain death. It may be a slow, lingering process as people leave you, facilities and permissions become increasingly hard to come by, funding somehow passes you by, the number of volunteers keeps dwindling...the decline is inevitable and few people outside the clubs' hard-core seem to care.

But at the same time on a regular basis, I experience clubs and sports enterprises from across most sports, in all types of communities, facility-owners, tenants or tenants who have developed into real community hubs for their communities and are experiencing considerable benefits, in a number of different ways.

Benefits of being a community hub

You can reach out to and engage with new potential users, members, supporters and partners

  • You can develop new income streams through events, commissioning and partnerships/sponsorships

  • By being more relevant you can increase attract more members and volunteers

  • You can become 'a better club'

  • It will help you generate support from within your community which may prove useful 'when times are tough' and your need their support

Your club's approach to community engagement - where do you stand?

Ask as people from across your club/enterprise as you can get hold of and then ask them where they think you stand right now:

  1. We are fully committed to working with everybody within our community, be it sport or non-sport partners. Our community programme is fully integrated into our club/enterprise and we are seen as a hub which attracts potential partners

  2. We are developing our community programme and although we still have a way to go, we are fully committed to this and we are fully aware of the benefits

  3. We need to focus harder on getting engaged with the community

  4. We'll talk to people from the community if they come to us...but why should they?

  5. Community - what has that got to do with sport?

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