Posted: Fri 12th May 2023

Cost of living pressures putting Welsh grassroots sport at risk

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 12th, 2023

Grassroots sports clubs across Wales are under severe pressure due to the escalating cost of living, a new survey by the charity Sported and Ring reveals.

The study suggests these financial burdens may limit young people’s participation in sports and pose a substantial threat to the future of community-based sports groups.

The Sported/Ring Community Pulse survey, which sampled nearly 250 community groups in Wales, found more than 90% were deeply worried about how rising costs could affect their operations.

Almost half reported a significant increase in energy and utility bills over the past six months, with a third experiencing a drop in youth attendance.

 

A substantial 52% of the clubs and organisations participating in the survey operate in the most deprived areas of Wales.

The current economic pressures are posing a significant threat to the infrastructure that provides young people with the chance to engage in physical activities and tackle pressing societal issues like mental health and crime prevention.

The survey also revealed that 72% of group leaders were concerned about the mental health impact of the cost of living increases on the young people they serve.

Three-quarters of respondents noted that economic pressures were leading to disengagement or reduced participation in sports and physical activities, with 74% already noticing young people unable to afford fees or subscriptions.

Looking ahead, nearly one-third of those surveyed believe that the financial squeeze will result in a decrease in physical activity among young people in Wales.

A quarter fear their clubs or groups will have to operate at reduced capacity or shut down entirely.

Uma O’Neill, who runs WISP Dance club in Flintshire, expressed their concerns about the situation.

She said: “There’s been an obvious financial impact on families. We keep sessions as cheap as we can make them at £7 a time.”

“We still see some people just stopped coming when the grants we had were removed. But there’s others who are determined to pay because they want to provide this for their children. It’s a balancing act for them.”

“We had one person who is non-verbal but who loved coming to the group because she makes friends and that’s incredible. She might not engage but she’s ready when it’s her turn. She loves the sessions. And she’ll probably be missing that activity and that camaraderie with friends. We provide that socialisation and it makes such a difference.

“A lot of our reach is into an area of deprivation. I have put in funding bids to run schemes but there’s nothing coming back at the moment. It was a slow start after Covid and our financial situation is still tough. It’s not good. But we’ll keep delivering.”

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 Cardiff or Swansea or in rural parts of Wales.

 “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 in Wales 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.”

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