NSW grassroots clubs and associations have received a major boost in the road towards returning to a COVID-safe community sport setup.
Whilst roadmap plans had been provided for the hospitality and education sectors in recent weeks, the community sporting sector had been left in the dark in the path to return to normality.
Speaking with Chris Smith at 2GB, NSW Sports Minister Natalie Ward outlined the future for community sporting clubs and associations going forward.
“I’ve put a plan forward. I have been a really strong advocate for a return to community sport. I’ve spoken to [NSW Health Minister] Brad Hazzard as recently as yesterday, and I’ve spoken with all of the sporting organisations to put a plan to him to say that we need a clear pathway out of here,” she said.
“Double vax is the key of course, and that is so that we can provide that clarity. The government’s announced that at 70% double-dosed groups of 20 can gather, so why can’t they gather and train together? Why can’t they be out there training and kicking a ball around?”
When probed about the potential attendance of parents at community sporting events, Ward was empathetic to the challenges NSW sporting families have faced whilst remaining cautious.
“We know that last time in lockdown that parents were restricted in what they could do. Now we know with the double dose that people are very aware that they need to comply with those orders [and] to do so safely so that everyone attending can do it in a very COVID-safe way,” she said.
“The last thing we want is to be able to open up the season and then have to shut it down.”
In support of the clubs and associations, Ward added: “I’ve got such faith in them [the clubs and associations], because they know their players; they know their members; they know their registrations; and they’re really good at implementing these plans.”
“So, I’ve put to [NSW] Health that there’s no better organisations than these sporting clubs [and] community clubs who have these volunteers that take this really seriously. They know this better than anyone.
“I’ve got confidence in them and I’ve said they’re ready, willing and able to implement this plan to give us a clear green light to get going.”
For grassroots clubs who have unfortunately had to shut down due to the impact of the extensive lockdown, Ward stressed the importance of providing a lifeline.
“It’s been really distressing. My family has been involved in a grassroots club [and] they run on nothing – the smell of an oily rag and volunteers,” she said.
“I have said to the treasurer that he needs to consider that they’re really clinging on. And the sooner that we can open the season up, even late as it is, as soon as we can get out there that’s throwing them a lifeline.”
A recent survey of Australia’s 70,000 community sport clubs has found almost all have lost money, with thousands of them facing the risk of going under.
It is found that 83 per cent of respondents reported their earnings were down by an average of $18,500 and 13 per cent feared they could go to the wall. The foundation’s CEO, Patrick Walker, revealed that amounted to about 9,000 clubs nationally.
The full survey, which was commissioned by the Australian Sport Foundation, can be accessed here.