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Active Engagement A Study of Northwest Professional Sport Clubsâ€™ Involvement in Community Regeneration Executive Summary
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Active Engagement: A Study of Northwest Professional Sport Clubs’ Involvement in Community Regeneration There is growing recognition that professional sport has a powerful role to play in community regeneration. Many professional sport clubs have an iconic brand that acts as a powerful attraction in engaging disadvantaged communities. At the same time, professional sport clubs are increasingly looking to diversify their income streams in response to the challenging environment in which they operate. The document ‘Sweating the Asset’1 highlighted ways in which football clubs could maximise the value of their stadium through alternative ‘noncore’ income streams and engagement in community regeneration initiatives. The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and The Football Association (FA) jointly commissioned David Taylor Partnership (DTP) to develop practical guidance to support clubs in developing their role in community regeneration and in creating more sustainable business plans. The study involved mapping the current activity of 38 professional sport clubs in the region representing football, rugby league, rugby union and cricket and
identifying both the future opportunities and challenges facing them. Professional sport is strong in England’s Northwest. A recent estimate by Deloitte2 demonstrate the economic ‘worth’ of the clubs included in this study: • Overall turnover of £511m; • Collective operating profit of £63.3m; • 2,885 people employed. There is already a wealth of good practice across the region; with some clubs already working with regeneration partners. The study found strong links with local authorities, local communities, fans groups and others, with examples provided from a number of clubs of relationships that have proved to be mutually beneficial. However, the study has highlighted that significant differences exist between the level of understanding and range of partnerships developed. Clubs identified five key themes: • The Role of the Stadium in Community Regeneration; • Partnership Working; • Health; • Education; and • Understanding Your Local Community.
The study has unearthed anecdotal evidence to support a positive advantage from this engagement, through increased attendances and new fans, but as Andy Gatcliffe, Chief Executive Officer at Warrington Wolves RLFC states ‘a balance has to be struck between community engagement and commercial reality’. However, little quantitative evidence was found of the direct financial benefit to clubs, other than the financial benefits derived from attracting new people to the clubs. For example, clubs found that health projects run in the stadia successfully exposed new groups to the club, and who, as stated by Gordon Pennington at St Helens RLFC, ‘discover the match day experience and enjoy the glamour and buzz of the occasion’. The study also found that clubs are keen to engage with their communities and are well aware of being seen to be ‘giving something back to their local community’. Clubs have clearly found new and innovative ways of doing this, for example through working with Supporters Trusts, gaining charitable status for Football in the Community
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programmes, and through engagement in innovative environmental and anti-racism programmes. There is strong evidence of a positive attitude towards further engagement with community regeneration, providing that this does not have significant resourcing implications. In short, the overwhelming message is that clubs embrace their potential role and are keen to use their facilities, profile and ‘branding’ but that further work is needed if their true potential is to be harnessed. For example, many clubs, particularly at the higher levels, are maximising the asset of their stadia through a variety of means, and have staff capacity to link this to community regeneration. However for the majority of clubs, this is not the case, although many are beginning to develop partnerships with this in mind for the future. Establishing a ‘one model fits all’ to assist clubs to successfully engage in community regeneration is not possible, although there are some common lessons that could be applied to most clubs. This study highlights the lessons but also confirms that further work is required.
• Clubs need to broaden and deepen their understanding of the regeneration and demographic context of their local community. • Clubs need to understand more about potential partners on a local level, and the context within which those partners operate. • There is support for clubs to better support one another, and particularly for larger clubs to share information and support smaller clubs. • Local community regeneration partners need to more fully appreciate the potential value of a club’s contribution to the wider regeneration agenda. The NWDA, working with other partners, has a key role to play in developing further the process of engagement between the region’s regeneration partners and clubs to facilitate a better dialogue and sharing of ideas. This would provide a framework to encourage clubs that have an appetite to do more to help their communities in parallel to developing short and longer-term alternative revenue streams.
References: 1. Sweating the Asset: A Resource Pack for Football Clubs and Communities (undated), Bearhunt. 2. Economic Impact of Professional Sport in the Northwest – Headlines (2006), Deloitte.
There is already a wealth of good practice across the region; with some clubs already working with regeneration partners.
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Northwest Regional Development Agency PO Box 37 Renaissance House Centre Park Warrington WA1 1XB Tel: +44 (0)1925 400 100 Fax: +44 (0)1925 400 400 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.nwda.co.uk www.englandsnorthwest.com www.visitenglandsnorthwest.com
The Football Association 25 Soho Square London W1D 4FA Tel: 020 7745 4545 Fax: 020 7745 4546
David Taylor Partnerships Limited 88 Fishergate Hill Preston PR1 8JD Tel: 01772 883888 Fax: 01772 828446
For a copy of the full report contact Anne Thompson, Sport Industries Manager, Northwest Regional Development Agency Tel: 01925 400100 NWDA G1-09