ACT Dragons Volleyball Club experienced a more than 450 per cent growth in participation after the last lockdown in Canberra, but it is one of the many sporting clubs around Australia that has suffered a financial blow due to COVID-19 and is looking at ways to rebuild once the territory reopens.
A new survey by the Australian Sports Foundation revealed one in 10 Australian sporting clubs fear bankruptcy and 83 per cent had lost revenue since COVID began.
The Dragons are one, losing about $20,000 through sponsors and waiving club membership fees, and they are unlikely to be in the black again until their summer social competition resumes.
More than 800 clubs responded to the ASF's second survey on the ongoing impact of COVID on community sport and found the three biggest concerns were financial instability, and declining participation and volunteering. It found one in two clubs struggled to retain volunteers and 60 per cent worried about retaining participation numbers also.
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The Dragons have not struggled to retain players, and have instead experienced a more than 450 per cent increase in participation - from about 120 regular members to 700 members - as their social competition blew up after Canberra's COVID lockdown last year.
This created some logistical nightmares for court time, but the cash-strapped club requires about $6000 alone to buy equipment to explore grass field options until more indoor courts are built in the ACT.
After losing about $20,000 last year in the lockdown, club president Dean Turner said they would suffer another financial blow this time and would be forced to put projects, such as exploring the grass field options, on the back burner again.
"When we finally opened up, volleyball had a real explosion of players across the community. With all of the four major clubs really reporting, doubling or tripling of club memberships. And then we've had to close down again," he said.
"Last summer we had 32 teams that played our summer competition. That's where we get a fair chunk of our funding for the year. So we're really looking forward to trying to be able to do that but I'm assuming, at this stage, we won't be able to start until next year.
"Ultimately we'll probably start next year with very little cash reserve. We started this year with about $25,000 in the bank and it's looking now like we'll probably have close to zero, unless we can actually start something before Christmas."
The main projects the Dragons will have to put on the back burner for another year will be starting a junior academy and buying equipment to run school programs, grass field games and community programs with Northside Community Group.
"It'll probably put us back 12 months, we're thinking, until we get some cash back in the bank and then we can start reinvigorating those programs," Mr Turner said.
"We're going to continue to try and find ways to bring funding in so that we can actually get these sort of junior school type programs off the ground, because that's where our participation future lies."
Against a backdrop of reduced revenues, 88 per of clubs also reported that their running costs had either stayed the same or in 47 per cent of cases, increased.
The most common cause for the increased costs to clubs were new hygiene measures and extra equipment needed to comply with COVID protocols, member refunds - due to shortened or abandoned seasons - and overheads.
Off the back of the ASF survey, the Back to Sport Fund was launched to provide an avenue for donations to support community sports recovery from COVID-19.
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