Sports consulting newsletter #10 - Sports and volunteering has been saved
Sports consulting newsletter #10 - Sports and volunteering
Volunteers and community involvement as a whole are valuable resources for the sports industry and will continue to play an integral part in its success—whether it is offering basic services like handing out water to athletes at events, or providing specific knowledge and expertise to organizers and sports clubs.
However, while volunteers are a large asset for local and international events as well as for clubs and federations, it can sometimes be difficult to find enough applicants, especially for long-term volunteer work. In this article, we take a closer look at this issue and the Luxembourg government’s strategy to tackle this problem.
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I. The importance of volunteering for sports events, clubs and federations shouldn’t be downplayed…
The sports industry is highly dependent on volunteers, from organizing ad hoc events to running ongoing sports club activities.
Many organizations rely heavily on volunteers when planning and executing sports events, whether local or international. The Olympics is a great example: 80,000 volunteers out of 200,000 applicants will help run the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics1. On a more local level, the ING Night Marathon, one of Luxembourg’s largest sports events, relies on more than 1,000 volunteers every year, allowing around 15,000 runners and 100,000 spectators to take part2.
In addition to playing a crucial part in the success of events, volunteers are also essential to the everyday life of the sports industry. This is especially true for Luxembourg, a country that counts more amateur than professional sports clubs. Indeed, many sports clubs or federations are associations that rely on volunteers3 (Fédération luxembourgeoise de tennis de table, Cheerleaders Angel's, Basket T71 Dudelange, etc.).
Volunteering can represent a win-win for both individuals and sports organizations. For many of the sports enthusiasts amongst us, it is the realization of a dream: whether to meet our favorite athletes, be part of a community or develop our skills, donating our time at sports events and clubs offers many opportunities. This explains the large number of volunteers in the sports sector.
In England, 6.3 million of volunteers donated their time to the sports sector at least twice in 20184. Sport also leads the voluntary sector in France, where the 5.7 million annual sport volunteers represent the equivalent of 270,000 full-time jobs, in a sector that employs 104,000 salaried employees, i.e. 2.5 times fewer than volunteers. This is a major win for the French economy: the financial value of French sports volunteering is estimated to be €7.5 billion5.
II. …however, there still aren’t enough volunteers, especially in long-term positions
The sports industry is constantly looking for motivated individuals and fortunately, there are many people eager to lend a hand. It should still be noted that there are two main types of volunteers: those who are long-term members of the organization, taking part in its development and carrying out day-to-day responsibilities; and those who pitch in now and then, donating their time for a specific reason or occasion.
It can be difficult to find the more permanent type of volunteer in the sports sector, given the amount of time and responsibility that is needed. In 2014, nearly 85% of French sports clubs found it increasingly difficult to find new volunteers willing to help run the association6. This is the highest rate among the charitable sector. Instead, the number of volunteers willing to donate their time on an ad hoc basis, particularly for events, is increasing7. This means that, while the overall pool of volunteers is expanding, the number of volunteers willing to commit to more time-intensive positions is dwindling.
While the amount of time required influences the varying number of volunteers, so does the amount of specialization/specific skills required. For some positions, a level of experience in a particular area is necessary (e.g. trainers), while for others, all that is required is motivation and commitment (e.g. distributing bibs at a race). Ultimately, both types of helping hands are crucial.
III. How Luxembourg is tackling the issue of volunteer unavailability
In recent years, Luxembourg’s sports clubs and associations have struggled to find enough motivated volunteers8. The Luxembourg government has taken the following measures to publicly recognize the hard work of volunteers and to inspire new ones to join the movement:
- Bénévole de l’année9: an honorary award given since 2009 to the most “remarkable” or invested volunteer of the year, and an opportunity for the Ministry of Sport to highlight the personal investment of volunteers in the Luxembourg sports industry. In 2018, the winner of this award was Roger Tull, an octogenarian and former professional cyclist, who coached the Luxembourg Cycling Federation and is now a member of the technical commission.
- Reform of the congé sportif10: all volunteers who are either a member of the Luxembourg Olympic and Sports Committee (COSL) or who perform voluntary work for the organization can benefit from the congé sportif. Sports federation executives can take up to five days a year to organize sports events at a local or international level. And, the scope of application is currently being reviewed to also apply to club and association executives. In 2019, 226.5 days of congé sportif were granted to Luxembourg executives, members of international organizations and/or those responsible for organizing official international events in Luxembourg. This represented an increase of 108 days compared to 2018.
While these initiatives make a positive contribution to voluntary sports organizations, the Luxembourg government has also decided to professionalize the structure of sports and clubs to attract a wider range of volunteers. Some examples include11:
- Quality+: this financial grant implemented in 2017 helps improve the quality of the Luxembourg sports industry in accordance with the new Grand Ducal regulations on the structuring of trainer education in the interests of sports associations and clubs.
- Subsidized sports clubs or association employees.
- The creation of a "time-saving account" for sports clubs or associations will also be considered.
Over the last few years, this professionalization drive has greatly benefitted the sports industry. The government, which has proven to be highly invested in the sports industry, is on the right path to fostering involvement in sports clubs and associations.
Looking forward, it remains to be seen whether the COVID-19 pandemic will leave a lasting mark on volunteerism in the sports sector. A range of circumstances, from an eagerness to participate once again in social activities, to a leftover apprehension of attending crowded events, may make for an uncertain future. Time will tell!
1 Tokyo Olympic volunteers face uncertainty over 1-year delay. (2020, April 30). Japan Today
2 What makes the ING Night Marathon Luxembourg so unique? (2019, May 29). Delano.
3 Sports. (n.d.). Retrieved from Portail du bénévolat: http://benevolat.public.lu/fr/espace-benevole/decouvrir-associations/sports/index.php?~=do&from=search&q=%23all&s=firstreleasedate%3Adesc&forwardDefaultQuery=true&b=0&hf=0
4(2019). Sports club volunteering 2018 – Summary report.
5 Conseil, O. (2016). Fédérations et associations sportives : vers un nouveau modèle de développement ? Retrieved from https://sportapres2017.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/sport-apres2017-debat5.pdf
6 Le sport en quelques chiffres. (2017). Retrieved from https://crdla-sport.franceolympique.com/cnar/fichiers/File/20170613_crdla_fiche_le_sport_en_quelques_chiffres.pdf
7 Conseil, O. (2016). Fédérations et associations sportives : vers un nouveau modèle de développement ? Retrieved from https://sportapres2017.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/sport-apres2017-debat5.pdf
8 (n.d.). Accord de coalition 2018-2023
9 (2019). Rapport d'activité 2019 du Ministère des Sports
10 (2019). Rapport d'activité 2019 du Ministère des Sports
11 (n.d.). Accord de coalition 2018-2023
Giulia Bruni Roccia, Jordan Cattaruzza, Catherine Vassen