Community sports clubs are working on plans to restart seasons after a coronavirus-induced pause, but for some clubs the starting whistle may never ring out again.
Time was called on community and grassroots sports in March as regulations were introduced to limit the impact of COVID-19. League, union, soccer, netball and hockey, among other team sports, have been on hold ever since.
Bundaberg Hockey Association president Des Barritt said revue was down significantly with associations, clubs and sponsors fighting to remain viable.
“Our revenue from the bar and canteen is what [usually] sort of helps prop us up in meeting our financial commitments for the year because we’ve still got rates, insurance our groundsmen — even though we’re not playing we need to maintain the fields.
“We’ll be lucky to even get half a season in, so our revenue is going to be well and truly down because the players don’t want to pay for a full season if they are only going to get half.
‘Out of business within three months’: Clubs hit by financial hardship
Clubs Queensland, the industry association for community clubs, has valued the annual economic contribution of clubs, including RSLs, at $2.2 billion.
Acting CEO Dan Nipperess said the biggest concern stemming from coronavirus shutdowns was the ongoing overhead costs.
“Clubs have seen between a 90 and a 95 per cent drop in incomes,” he said.
“You could be looking at 20 to 25 per cent of community clubs not being able to reopen. About half of the 850 clubs in Queensland are sports clubs.”
The Australian Sports Federation has begun surveying clubs to gauge the impact of the pandemic.
CEO Patrick Walker said initial responses have painted a worrying picture.
“We’ve got clubs telling us they’ve lost 80 per cent of their sponsorship because the local pub, club or cafe has closed its doors — clubs that have received their membership regos, spent it, and are now faced with having to refund it and they don’t have the money,” he said.
“The big issue is, we think, when members do get back to competition and training, a lot of people won’t be able to afford sport for them or their kids anymore and there will be a big decline in participation.”
Situation similar across Qld
Regional president of Marlin Coast Netball, in Far North Queensland, Heather McLaren said the financial situation for many clubs in the region was also perilous.
“Many parents haven’t paid their dues at the moment, which is understandable, and many who have paid will want at least a partial refund due to the season being at best truncated at worst not happening at all,” she said.
“We’re just holding the money and we’ll have to refund it if the season doesn’t go ahead.”
Ms McLaren said fees already paid have gone to the managing body in Brisbane and there was uncertainty about whether that money would ever be returned to clubs — further complicating the financial situation.
In Gladstone, rugby league chairman Richard Duff said the league would survive the pandemic but not without challenges.
“They’re all going to survive — the Gladstone council has been proactive having meetings with all sporting groups and the QRL are developing plans to help clubs out of this,” he said.
“Is it going to cost more when we emerge from this, disinfecting the rooms, hand sanitiser, only so many people at games … all of us rely on people coming to junior and senior sport and buying food from the kiosk … so how we are going to generate revenue is going to be the question.”
Plea for support
Industry bodies have intensified their pleas for government assistance.
Australian Sports Federation CEO Patrick Walker said the body had also been rallying for independent support.
“Traditional forms of fundraising have stopped. No sausage sizzles, no club events and dinners, can’t do a Friday night meat raffle,” he said.
“We do need governments, philanthropy and charities to look at how they can help this part of the community through this troublesome period.”
In Bundaberg, Des Barritt who had been planning to host the under 15 men’s state championship in September before it was cancelled said there was some optimism on the horizon.
“Hockey Queensland is hoping to allocate those same championships to the same places again next year, so the areas can hang their hat on having a championship next year and we’ll hopefully get some revenue out of that,” he said.
Queensland’s Sports Minister Mick De Brenni has been contacted for comment.