Community sports organisations are warning that the cost of living crisis is damaging access to sport and threatening the vital support it delivers for young people throughout Wales.
In new research for charity Sported, 92% of community sports groups admitted to fears about the impact of cost of living increases on their young people. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of the groups surveyed expect the crisis will force kids out of participating in activities over the next six months – even when those activities are free. This means thousands of young people will be missing out on sport and physical activity opportunities which play a huge part in their development, helping them deal with a wide range of issues.
Around half of these groups are located in the country’s most deprived areas where sport plays a vital role in combating key social issues such as anti-social behaviour, mental health issues and crime and in making a real difference in the daily lives of some of the most marginalised people.
With groups in Wales facing increased costs from venue hire and energy bills, many fear for their group’s long-term viability. 67% of community sports groups have already been forced into changes to offset the impact of cost of living increases. This includes reducing membership fees, offering fewer sessions per week, or reducing the number of young people that can take part.
55% of community groups need between £1,000 – £9,999 to support their cost of living priorities over the next six months but exactly half reported a drop in financial support (such as from local businesses, trusts and foundations) for their vital work in the community.
Given that the majority of groups survive on less than £10,000 per year, this funding shortfall could prove critical to their survival.
Over half of groups (52%) are concerned about young people and families being unable to afford activities. Other notable concerns included travel costs (18%) and mental health impacts (15%).
Grassroots sports groups are the cornerstone of Welsh communities. They not only provide safe and affordable access to sport and physical activity but the trusted environment offered also has a deep, long-lasting impact on young people.
Sported wants to ensure that all young people can continue to access the benefits of community sport through the current crisis, as well as enabling all groups to have equal access to affordable, sustainable and safe facilities.
Owain Harris, Commonwealth bronze medallist in boxing for Wales, added: “Sport really matters to me. It has helped me with my ADHD, kept me off the streets and stopped me causing trouble. It also gives me a purpose and targets to work towards. Having community groups like ApollosABC helps people with their mental health and makes them feel better in themselves. If it closes down these young kids won’t have the same opportunities I did. Many of the members are already struggling and the cost of living crisis will push them even further. Young people desperately need community groups.”
Nicola Walker, Chief Executive of Sported, explains: “These are difficult times for the young people of Wales. Covid-19 has already disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged members of society, widening inequalities, and creating a time bomb in terms of mental health. The cost of living crisis will only exacerbate this.
“I know just how responsible our community groups feel for helping young people and many groups feel they are letting them down at a time when they most need help. I am alarmed that many groups will be forced to reduce their sessions or even close, which would have terrible lasting impact on young people and Welsh communities.”
Nicola Wheten, Manager of ApollosABC in Cardiff said: “Our Club members come from various backgrounds and for many of them, being a part of this club is about so much more than sport. It’s about being in a space where they feel safe, where they can leave their worries at the door and feel part of our Boxing family. It’s like their second home, although for many it’s actually their only place of belonging.”We’re really worried about the cost of living crisis. At the moment, we’re fighting to keep our building, and are in talks with the local Council. The fees we’re facing are exorbitant. But more importantly, we don’t want to let our members and the Community down. Coming here keeps them focused on the good in the world and their own potential to thrive. The cost of living and what that brings could jeopardise all that we as a Club and each member has worked towards.”
Sported’s role is to empower the local heroes running these groups throughout Wales by providing much-needed professional expertise, resources and operational support, free of charge, to help their groups survive and thrive.