The findings of the Club Development Scotland 2021 survey paint a somewhat pessimistic picture for the future of sports clubs in Scotland, particularly concerning their finances and membership.
While before the pandemic just 2% of clubs were making a loss, as of June 2021, this number had grown to 31% of clubs. Furthermore, while pre-COVID 48% of clubs were making a surplus, just 18 months on, this number had reduced to 28% – highlighting the impact COVID has had upon clubs financially. In addition, 16% of the clubs who participated in the survey held doubts they would survive the next six months.
However, this said, 32% believed the financial position of their club would improve over the next year, outweighing those who thought their position would stay the same or worsen (30%) – albeit the variance here was small.
Regarding clubs’ membership numbers, since the start of 2020 (pre-COVID), over 50% of clubs had seen their adult membership decrease, with just 18% witnessing an increase over the same time period. While this decrease might be largely attributed to the impact of COVID19, this is also reflective of wider trends concerning the decrease of membership within sports clubs in Scotland (and as reported by the OSS).
However, survey participants were more optimistic than pessimistic about the following 12 months. While 24% of clubs believed their membership would stay the same or decrease in the coming year, 36% believed their numbers would grow.
The importance of membership to clubs was further highlighted in two subsequent answers. ‘Trying new things to attract participants’ ranked as the most popular answer when clubs were asked about their priorities for the future, while ‘Attracting and retaining members’ also scored highest among participants when asked what main challenges would be as a club in coming two years. Other priorities for clubs included increasing the number of volunteers and undertaking training and development. Other challenges included recruiting and retaining coaches and the increased costs clubs would incur.
As to the reasons why members had left their club in the past year, inactivity (as a result of COVID restrictions), changes to personal circumstances and work commitments were cited as the most popular answers.
Out of the 101 clubs, just 16% ran their activities in a facility that they partially of fully owned. The majority of clubs (57%) hired a facility with 12% utilising a lease agreement. Just one of the 101 clubs had taken ownership of an existing sports facility via a community asset transfer. A further seven clubs were considering the possibility of a CAT. This might be an area of future potential for clubs in Scotland, particularly given the reported financial impact of COVID upon leisure centres. As a percentage of their overall expenditure, the majority of clubs spent between 0-40% upon facility hire (54%). However, only 32% of the clubs who participated in the survey stated their facility hire costs had either remained the same (30%) or decreased (2%) in the past five years. These clubs are outweighed by those whose facility hire costs had either increased a little (33%) or increased significantly (27%).
In terms of the legal setup of clubs, 75% of clubs were unincorporated associations, run by members with a constitution and committee. In Scotland, this is the most common structure for an amateur sports club. This will suit the majority of clubs that don’t employ staff or enter into contracts, but also highlights a potential liability for committee members. Of the other clubs, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIO) were the most popular legal structure (14%), highlighting the rise in popularity of the model for sports clubs in Scotland since its introduction in 2011.
In total, 101 clubs completed the 2021 CDS Annual Survey. SportScotland estimates there are around 13,000 clubs in Scotland, meaning the survey sample is by no means wholly representative, however, is one large enough from which a level of insight can be gained.
In total 30 different types of sports clubs participated in the survey. Of these, football clubs were the most represented (13%).
Of the clubs that participated, 75% of the clubs were run entirely by volunteers. 23% were run by a mix of staff and volunteers with just 2% run by paid staff.
You can see the full results below.