Levels of government support for sports clubs in England are lower than in other European countries, according to academics from a Yorkshire university.
n the first research project to compare volunteer-led sports clubs across Europe, researchers from the University of Sheffield say sports club participation and volunteering in sport is also higher in countries such as Denmark and Switzerland.
The study says that countries where money is more equally distributed have higher levels of sports volunteering, and that the UK has a relatively unequal distribution of income.
And it reveals that despite England’s long tradition of volunteering and love for sport, the link between levels of volunteering and sport is not as strong as in other countries.
The report, Social Inclusion and Volunteering in Sports Clubs in Europe, by the University of Sheffield’s Management School’s, Geoff Nichols and Matthew James from Cardiff Metropolitan University, has been published on the University of Sheffield’s website.
It calls for the Government to develop more policies nationally to support sports clubs, and suggests Denmark and Switzerland see more practical support while “valuing and respecting the independence of volunteer-led sporting organisations”.
Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s Management School, Geoff Nichols said: “Our research has found that sports club participation and volunteering is important in England but not as high as other EU countries, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark.
“Government policy to support sports clubs is also much stronger in these three countries.
“The research looks at other factors that affect participation and volunteering in sports clubs across Europe. Across Europe there is still a gender imbalance in club membership.
“More broadly, the more equally income is distributed in societies, the higher the level of sports volunteering. England has a relatively unequal distribution of income.
“The biggest threat to clubs in England is the availability of sports facilities. This may reflect cuts in local government budgets which reduce the ability of clubs to hire facilities at the times and prices they want.”
He added: “Across Europe, sports clubs run by volunteers represent people getting together to share a similar passion.
“The contribution of volunteers is critical. The network of clubs is a historical legacy which needs to be supported.
“However, clubs also need to adapt to trends towards individual participation and away from traditional team sports. The recent popularity of parkrun reflects these trends.”
The authors hope the report will encourage sports club members and parents and guardians to volunteer more time to help run their clubs.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport have been approached for a comment.