the Network for entrepreneurs delivering sport in the community
from Sports Marketing Network
The time has come for community sports entrepreneurs
Increasingly sport and physical activity in the community is being delivered by people and organisations which operate in parallel with the traditional school and club sports providers. These Community Sports Enterprises, operating either as social or commercial enterprises, are often run by people who have spotted a need or opportunity at their local level and decided to provide a service to fill that gap.
These community sport providers include sport camp organisers, coaching agencies, community sports trusts, organisers of five-side football (and other shorter versions of team sport), BMX facilities in converted factories, gymnastics/trampoline providers in former warehouses, youth or senior citizen groups, community-owned and managed facilities and many more types of providers. Of course, many of our community sports clubs are indeed run by community sports entrepreneurs,
Because of their freedom from the policies and bureaucracy that sometimes limit providers within the traditional sporting landscape, many of these enterprises are often more innovative when it comes to developing and delivering great sporting and consumer experiences.
Many of them are excellent at linking up their physical activity offerings with providers within non-sports areas such as education, regeneration, health prevention and community services. Though that they are able to attract more community engagement and support and break down perceptions.
In the more than five years SMN has been operating we have met many of these enterprises and the people behind them and often we have been very impressed. Generally they operate in isolation and rarely have had any support when developing their enterprise and many of them report of barriers being put in their way by the ‘establishment.’
These enterprises have mainly been developed and run by people who do not see themselves as part of the ‘sporting landscape’, but simply as people who want to engage people through sport, and make sure they are sustainable through the way they run their enterprise.
We also believe that there will be a strong increase in the number of informal sports providers as many local authorities become more focused towards commissioning services, including physical activity, as the withdrawal of local authority services will open up opportunities and the increased acceptance, and even welcome of community sports enterprises by many governing bodies of sport.
Apart from in Scotland, through SENSCOT (and the exciting new initiative from Sport Wales – see box) until now there has been little networking between these enterprises. Often they have had to reinvent the wheel when it comes to getting the enterprise off the ground, getting planning permission and change of use and making sure that their sporting passion and skills is matched by their enterprise understanding and knowledge. Not always an easy task if your background is not business and enterprise.
This is why Sports Marketing Network believes that the time has come to set up the Sports Enterprise Network (‘SEN’) and is establishing the Network for entrepreneurs delivering sport in the community.
The scope for the Sports Enterprise Network
SEN aims to become the network organisation for community sports enterprises from across the UK, from all areas of the community, at various stages of their development and covering a wide range of physical activities.
SEN will collect and disseminate examples of best practice from community sports enterprises, support providers at all stages of their development, bring enterprises from different parts of the UK together so they can learn and share, run workshops and produce guides on non-sport specific issues facing community sports providers and generally provide support on their enterprise aspects.
SEN will help train potential sports entrepreneurs on how to develop and run successful and sustainable providers for the benefit of their customers and communities. We will also help educate sports/enterprise/community professionals on the various aspects of community sports enterprise, so they are better equipped to understand and support budding sports entrepreneurs.
Community Sports Enterprise needs champions and SEN will highlight the great work done by so many people within the sector and ensure that they will act as role models and beacons.
We will run regional events and medium-term, run an Awards Programme to honour and highlight excellent practice within the world of sports enterprises.
A website, including a discussion forum where sports entrepreneurs across the UK can share ideas and experiences, will provide a key tool.
We will also be publishing a newsletter, Grow Sport, which eight times a year will provide need-to-know information on how to make community sport vibrant, visible and viable.
Some of the areas/topics SEN could cover:
• How to launch a Community Sports Enterprise
• How to Grow your Community Sports Enterprise
• Being commissioned to deliver physical activity, education and other community services
• How to develop a service that people will really want to pay for
• Asset transfer – opportunities and challenges
• Social pricing – ensuring sustainability whilst meeting your community/social objectives
• Overcoming planning issues
• Franchising – the way to grow your nationwide enterprise?
• Working with non-sport partners
The way forward – call to action
If you want learn more about Sports Enterprise Network, know of an existing or budding local sport enterprise, want to launch one or grow one yourself, if you are a sports/enterprise/community development professional keen to learn more or if you have any comments or suggestions, we would really like to hear from you.