Change inevitable at community level

John Brimble
John Brimble
The only thing certain in life is change — and that is certainly going to happen to sport because of Covid-19.

The pandemic sweeping the world has exposed how reliant professional sport is on broadcasting money and how out of kilter salaries have become. Closer to home, community sport will need to look at itself and make some serious adjustments.

Sport Otago chief executive John Brimble said the impact of Covid-19 would accelerate changes which would had occurred in community sport.

‘‘It will be driven by the financial situation that they find themselves in.

‘‘ It will be about talking together, collaborating to a certain degree, the sharing of resources and sharing of coaching staff,’’ he said.

‘‘That may lead to the combining of more than one code, probably have hubs of sports throughout the community though they will have to work in with community trusts and the DCC.’’

At club level, a club such as the South Pacific Rugby League and Sports Club may be the way of the future. Clubs would offer more than one sport and be the umbrella which connected them.

He said there would be more onus on volunteers to do more work as the reality was there would be a reduction in staff in sports. Such roles as development officers and support staff might be reduced.

‘‘I think the volunteers are there. What has happened in the past couple of decades as paid staff have increased the volunteers have been pushed away somewhat. This heralds a chance for those volunteers to come back.

‘‘I think what we have seen also is the extras have turned into what is expected.’’

Brimble said extra team clothing and equipment was not needed.

‘‘What we have found is kids just want to get out and play. They miss their mates, the chance to get out and run around.’’

Brimble said professional sport would have an opportunity to reset.

Players were being paid unrealistic wages and that needed to end. Sports would have to learn to cut their cloth to remain viable.

University of Otago professor Steve Jackson said Covid-19 was a challenge but also an opportunity. Sport also had to realise it was given exceptions to play when no-one else could carry out full-body contact.

He said professional sport faced a tough road ahead.

‘‘Pro sport will face challenges in part because it is dependent on media and sponsors which are both linked to spectators. If people don’t have money they can’t buy tickets or subscribe to sport TV,’’ he said.

‘‘I think pro sport and its athletes will need to become more community-oriented and this means more than just attending charity events — it means spending real time in communities and contributing funding to them.

‘‘The inequality in society will be made very transparent when we look at sport — there may be millionaire athletes in the short term but it is not sustainable if consumers have no money.’’

He said community sport needed better links between schools and clubs.

‘‘We need a complete revamp of the increasing professionalisation of secondary school sport.

‘‘Let’s envision shared facilities and resources to make things more cost effective. Let’s envision a more balanced approach between national sport organisations and the clubs they represent.

‘‘All of this may help address some of the other imbalances in relation to girls and women’s sport.

‘‘If sport can adapt and change it will not only survive but thrive. If it retains the old outdated model it will be survival of the fittest but there will be more losers than winners.’’


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