A survey by the Australian Sports Foundation has found that community sports clubs have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with participation rates plummeting and earnings being low enough for some clubs to risk closing.
In response, VU in the Community has partnered with the College for Sports and Exercise Science to develop a Work-integrated Learning (WIL) program called Adopt a Club to help support community clubs with the development of targeted economic and COVID recovery strategies. In collaboration with local government partners, Adopt a Club will match VU Sport Management students with local sports clubs to co-design business strategies based on the clubs’ identified needs. Areas of focus include member and volunteer retention, marketing and sponsorship.
In a recent interview with Star Weekly, VU researcher Professor Rochelle Eime said that if clubs couldn’t re-engage old members and recruit new ones, community sport could lose a generation of members. Children aged four to nine showed the biggest drop-off. She also flagged that if something isn’t done now, COVID-19’s legacy will be an even wider gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children.
Sport is a flagship discipline for VU, with more students enrolled in sports subjects than at any other university in Australia. As a part of VU's commitment to the communities in Melbourne’s west, Adopt a Club enables students to work with local sports clubs to help them in their recovery from the current crisis. Adopt a Club is designed to be mutually beneficial, providing students with work experience in their chosen career, while benefiting clubs through dedicated resourcing and strategic development.
Eight clubs have signed up from across the Cities of Wyndham and Hume to take part in an Adopt a Club pilot starting in January, and it is hoped the program will expand across other LGAs in 2022.