• Ian Sandbrook

The Burning Platform: Back to basics for some Sports Governing Bodies

There are many sports operating on a burning platform – that is, a shrinking of their true participation/membership base that ultimately sustains their sporting system long-term.

Many sports are experiencing this despite elite level success. And yet, boosting participation by ‘inspiring the next generation’ through elite level success is often used as a key justification for the mass investment at the top end, and the myriad of marketing and support functions around that.

There must be people brave enough to continue to challenge this because the current balance in how we invest throughout the system isn’t working well enough for grassroots sport.

Therefore, let me challenge you with the below:

Who are the primary deliverers of lifelong engagement with your sport in local communities?

Who primarily influence people’s sporting experiences in local communities?

Who are you reliant on to drive your sports growth in local communities?

Who provide the most ‘high-value’ consumers of your sport?

Who have been the foundation of your sporting system for generations?

Grassroots, community sports clubs.

With that in mind, how much do you allocate in your budget for ‘Club Development’?

No cheating – strip out all the elite, performance, pathway, coaching, competitions related activity and support functions. They might influence and impact on clubs to varying degrees, but they aren’t club development.

Are you shocked? You might be thinking, “Yes, but this is not your responsibility as a national or regional sports organisation?”

I would strongly argue otherwise. Considering the above, I would say it is directly your responsibility. Not only because it will positively impact on so many areas of your sporting system, of which you are the guardians, but because they are the primary stakeholders in your sport.

Consider this:

Do most ‘top-down’ strategies in sport end up with a waterfall of resource at the top, which thins to a mere ‘drip’ at the bottom?

Why have your committed playing numbers stagnated or dropped, despite winning national teams/athletes and lucrative commercial deals?

There’s no doubt in my mind that the long-term health and sustainability of a sport is delivered bottom-up. I would question how well we enable that to happen in our respective sports.

We must make sure we’re investing in meaningful ways to create vibrant, visible and viable clubs and community providers, as that will create a healthier sport from bottom to top over the long-term.

It’s not rocket science after all.

If you want to find out more about how I can help your sport in this area, please don't hestitate to get in touch -

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