In Portugal, more than 80% of youngsters haven´t remained affiliated with their sport clubs
During the lockdown which lasted for 11 months, most of the grassroots clubs remained closed. The figures show that more than 80% of youngsters haven´t remained affiliated with their sport clubs and organisations.
We talked to Filipa Godinho (ENGSO Executive committee member) and Gonçalo Alves from the Sports Confederation of Portugal, a member of ENGSO and partner organisation in the project CHAMP, to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the grassroots sport in Portugal.
How is Covid-19 affecting sport clubs and the grassroots sport sector in your country (lockdown, closures, financial ruin, etc. Please describe).
The current situation, the COVID-19 pandemic that Portugal and particularly the sports sector is going through, is proving to be extremely challenging to manage. From the beginning of March 2020, and until the end of January 2021, Portugal went throught three months of complete closure of sports activities and eights months of very limited access to sport.
In the first phase (of the lockdown), the exception was professional men's football. In the second phase, senior male and female competitions were allowed to take place, and athletes and national teams in the process of preparing for international competitions were permitted to train.
Over these 11 months, the grassroots clubs have almost completely stopped with their activities, due to the limitations imposed by the national health authorities. Training in groups and contact sports were forbidden.
The clubs have been trying to adapt to the situation by moving their activities online. This initiative has not been perceived positively, because besides not being allowed to practice in a normal, in-person setting, it also made people, especially youth, less motivated to do sport.
Recent figures show that more than 80% of youngsters, up to the junior level, haven´t remained affiliated with the various sports federations. This trend is particularly obvious in team sports and physical contact sports.
In financial terms the Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect on clubs; the loss of income, loss of members and affiliated athletes, loss of sponsorship, cancellation of competitions and loss of event spectators.
On the other side, the operating costs increased due to adaptations of the sport facilities to the rules that have been published by the national health authority.
The conclusion is: sport clubs do not only have an immense increase in operating costs, but they also suffer from a tremendous loss of revenue which resulted in many clubs no longer reopening their doors.
What is the response and support from the government; are sport clubs and grassroots sport getting support? If yes, what kind?
The Portuguese government, since the decision to ban sports activities, did not announce any specific measures for the sector. This led to a lot of criticism from the top organisations in the national sports system and from the sports community.
Between March 2020 and early March 2021, sport organisations were able to get support from the government from the funding available for the general recovery of the economy. This included support for the payment of rents of sports facilities and phased or deferred payment of taxes and social security contributions.
In the second week of March 2021, the Portuguese government presented a specific scheme for the support of the sport sector worth 65 million Euro; 35 million Euro as non-refundable grants for clubs registered as non-profit organisations, and 30 million Euro for federations with public utility status (as a loan). We are curious to see if this support will allow fast and sustainable recovery of the sport sector.
Local authorities, such as municipal or parish councils, have played an important role in the recovery of the sport sector by offering specific support to local sport clubs and helped them overcome the crisis and maintain the business.
In Portugal, the support given to sport clubs and to sport in general has been far from what is desirable and expected, especially from the government.
Covid-19 and community sport; do you think it is a crisis or an opportunity? Please explain your opinion.
In our opinion, this situation is a crisis, “unparalleled shock”, for the sport community. In past few years, the sport community has been recovering from a huge financial crisis, which Portugal went through between the years 2011 and 2015, and has not yet recovered in 2019 (to reach the level from 2010). The current crisis is of a much greater financial dimension, with the aggravating factor that many people are leaving sport clubs associations and federations for good.
The work that has been invested into the modernisation of the organisations, with an aim of attracting new partners, sponsors and members, haven't lasted long enough to produce the desirable and necessary results so that overcoming the impact of this crisis could be possible.
One of the more positive changes that may occur during this crisis, is that organisations will network more, through European projects such as CHAMP and similar activities. Projects, such as CHAMP or other initiatives supported by the European Union, could play an important role in networking and modernizing sport clubs and grassroots sport in Europe.
The CDP believes that this pandemic and the crisis will leave deep wounds and will push many people away from sport.
What do you think is the main challenge of the grassroots and community sport sector today, and why?
In addition to the objective of overcoming this crisis, the main challenge for the sports community will be the necessary adaptation to the "new reality" that has been already happening before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and which will be accelerated as soon as this crisis is over.
The "new reality" is: new sports, new dynamics in traditional sports, more knowledge on the importance of physical activity and mental well-being, and new technologies will are an important partner and not an enemy. This is the reality in which the sports community must play a leading role. The sport sector will have the ability to be an active and central partner in conveying the message that sport is safe, fundamental and a catalyst for “physical, social and psychological happiness”.
The sports community will have to learn how to network, as this ability will play an important role in the near future.
Sports Confederation of Portugal is one of the partners in the Erasmus+ funded project CHAMP which tackles the innovation and modernization of the traditional sports movement. The final product of the project will be a free, online course “How to manage a modern sport club”.
About Portuguese Sport Confederation
- Non-governmental organisation, non-profit-making, which brings together the federated sports movement, providing support to the member sports federations and acting to concert their interests.
- Intervening in the national sports policy and participating in the strategic sports guidelines in general, as a social partner, with the government, based on the defence of the right to sport as an essential factor in the full development of the human being.
- Representing all sports federations in front of the State, the European Union and the similar organisms in the other countries.