As the UK continues to open up in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, people are beginning to navigate their way through the new reality, and few sectors have been transformed more than grassroots sport.
The 18-month pandemic has produced a genuine threat to survival for grassroots sports. For example, more than 10% of grassroots football clubs in the UK told writers of the annual State of Play report, produced in early 2021, that they did not believe their team would survive the pandemic. For club organisers and committees, the challenge is to re-engage with existing members, attract new ones, and find ways to manage the day-to-day functioning of their organisation, while also remaining mindful of the need to limit contact between members and maintain sensible measures, especially where unvaccinated young people are involved.
With concerns over health and social distancing, going back to the way things were is not an option, so we need to find new ways of working if our clubs and organisations are to survive and prosper, starting with the way we manage our club, organise events and communicate with members. The good news is that there are tools out there that can help us adapt to the new normal, they don’t need to cost anything, and many are even ad-free.
“The typical organiser for any club, grassroots sports team or similar organisation is someone who has multiple commitments related to work, volunteering or family, so the less time they need to spend on admin, the more they have to do what they truly love,” says Trine Falnes, CEO of Spond, a free-to-use platform with 1 million weekly active users that helps community clubs and teams to communicate with members and coordinate their activities. “Voluntary organisers of grassroots clubs have always been the unsung heroes, often taking on huge amounts of admin work. Covid-19 has not only threatened the existence of the clubs they love, it has also made their roles even more complex.”
The good news is that apps like Spond make it possible to organise your team and manage your club from a single interface, signing up new members, communicating with existing ones, coordinating events and even taking online payments for membership dues, transport, etc. The concept may sound simple, but the reality is a revolution in the way voluntary clubs, teams and associations are managed.
“Let’s take a local rugby team organising an away match as an example,” says Trine. “In the old days, the fixtures secretary would set up the match and then put out a call for players. This would be done via text, social media, email, phone and multiple other channels. Once they have the squad list, the players need to contribute match fees and the cost of travel, so the club treasurer, or an enthusiastic player or parent, needs to collect and monitor payments via cash, bank payments or even cheque. It’s complex and time-consuming.“
“With a free team management app like Spond, the organiser creates an event, which automatically alerts the required players and allows them to manage attendance. Once they have done this, all fees can be requested and received directly through the app and automatically recorded. For just this one event, the time saved could be several hours, which really adds up over a season. In addition, groups are also finding it useful to upload their ‘return to play’ protocols for players to read and follow to maintain team welfare.”
Technology is proving to be a gamechanger in the post-pandemic world and, with an estimated 151,200 sports clubs in the UK alone, the potential exists for many more to benefit. The advantages were always clear, and the new challenges presented by Covid-19 have only made them even more tangible.