For every $1 spent on local football clubs, at least $4.40 is returned in social value, improving employment outcomes, mental wellbeing and personal development, a study has found. The Centre for Sport and Social Impact (CSSI) at La Trobe University was commissioned by the AFL to look into the social value of community football clubs and its influence on health and the wider community. It surveyed 1,677 clubs across Victoria and conducted 110 interviews with club and community members, focusing on individual health, well-being, trust and social connectedness. It found for every $1 spent to run an average club, there was at least $4.40 returned in terms of social connectedness, wellbeing and mental health status. It also led to improved employment outcomes, personal development, physical health, civic pride and the support of other community groups. Professor Russell Hoye lead the study and said it showed even those with just a passing involvement in a club benefited. “This study was trying to come up with a financial estimate of the social returns football clubs generate at a local level, so looking to map all the activities that a club delivers outside football. “[We] identified all the input, so all the volunteer time, investment from local government in putting the facilities together and what that costs, and then all the things it generates in terms of greater social connectedness, mental health and employment opportunities being provided to individuals associated with football. It doesn’t really matter at what level you’re engaged at a football club, whether you’re a player, a coach a volunteer, or general supporter, it’s [through] those connections that you form with that club that you’re able to receive those benefits. Across the board, even those with a marginal association with a football club gets some benefit.”
He said it was important to note that many of the football clubs in regional areas were also connected to netball clubs. “It’s really a football-netball story around the benefits they’re delivering for males and females in the community. “I think most community sporting groups would like to claim similar outcomes, but I think for football in particular in Victoria, the scale of operation that is required to put a team on the park, it’s a different outcome than say a group of friends playing netball at a local level. There’s no structure around them so their impact is less, so I football clubs have a unique case to make.
Mental heath, employment outcomes for young people ‘significant’
Professor Hoye said the wellbeing outcomes were the most significant and surprising discoveries of the study. “Apart from the obvious physical benefits of playing sport and being active, it’s the mental health benefits people receive,” he said. “You’re more connected, you’re able to access social support and you’ve got greater wellbeing because you’re amongst a group of peers doing something that everyone likes to do.” It confirms what a lot of people suspect, but it also gives a scale of the degree of the impact a club can have on a community by putting a dollar value on it. Social events and club functions meant people were engaging with the community.
He said involvement in local football clubs also played an important role in helping young people find work. “It allows people in that key age bracket of 15-24 access job opportunities though other club members offering them opportunities or a reference or some sort of support,” he said. “So the employment benefits that flow indirectly from the football involving was really surprising to us. The the study would allow clubs to approach local government, businesses and other corporate organisations for additional support.
AFL says report will help plan future investment
The AFL’s chief executive Gillon McLachlan said it highlighted the importance of grassroots sporting clubs. “It’s for the first time quantified what I think we’ve all instinctively known, what a huge part community football is in so many lives,” he told 774 ABC Melbourne. [It shows] in terms of…physical and mental wellbeing and community engagement that footy clubs and sporting clubs have a huge impact. [It shows] in terms of economic outcomes, but also in social ‘connectiveness’, physical and mental wellbeing and community engagement, that footy clubs and sporting clubs have a huge impact. I think people understand and associate the physical benefits of football clubs for the players and coaches, but it’s the mental wellbeing that comes through very strongly in this report. Whether it’s the players, the coaches, the volunteers, the supporters, the family members the broader impact it has on their mental wellbeing [is validated].”
Mr McLachlan said it would also help the AFL plan community projects and future investment. “There’s nearly $800 million spent through the state leagues, through direct AFL money or money thats raised through the state leagues themselves,” he said. “We know it to be important, we have invested in it for a long time but I think having a financial basis that quantifies it is really helpful.”
This article and image first appeared ABC, 2 March 2015.