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The Lethbridge Sport Council distributed a survey to local sport organizations on the current and anticipated impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, there have been 37 survey respondents totaling over 15,000 members and 1,500 volunteers. Survey respondents were 60% non-profit and 40% for-profit sport organizations.

89% of sport organizations that completed the survey reported they were forced to temporarily close. 11% are open with modifications offering virtual coaching and training sessions.

The financial impact for sport with the cancellation of training and competitions is far beyond what sport organizations anticipated and planned for. 41% said they have a financial reserve but not enough to sustain them through the current and anticipated impacts of COVID-19, while 24% said they have no reserve. The remaining 35% indicated they have a financial reserve large enough to sustain them through current and anticipated impacts of COVID-19.

65% are not eligible for provincial or federal subsidy or support programs.

89% of respondents have seen a reduction in income from membership fees and sales and 91% have seen a reduction in income from fundraising, events, grants, and sponsorships.

The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is worrisome for local sport organizations. Youth sport is funded primarily by membership fees and revenue from hosting tournaments and fundraisers.

Survey respondents told us they expect their membership numbers to drop due to COVID-19. They fear families may not have the funds to participate and they wonder how team sports will be able to modify their game to account for physical distancing measures.

Local sport organizations are being creative to stay connected to their members and to keep kids involved. Board of directors are hosting virtual meetings while coaches are hosting on-line training sessions and linking to online resources.

When asked how they plan to re-engage their membership once restrictions are lifted, common themes included through traditional and online advertising and emailing their membership. 25% said they would offer free or discounted registration fees and equipment rentals. Half the respondents said they have no plan as the disruption of COVID-19 still has too many unknowns.

What we do know is that sport, physical activity and recreation (SPAR) make individuals and communities stronger and healthier through social connections. A strong SPAR sector will quickly and significantly aid the economic, health, and social impact of Lethbridge and area residents as our community recovers from COVID-19.

COVID-19 pandemic resources for sport are updated regularly and can be found on the Lethbridge Sport Council website

First published in the Lethbridge Herald Wednesday, May 13, 2020