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Structural change in sport
The scientific year 2013 is especially focussed on the demographic development of society, a situation which for good reason, is currently centre of attention.
Structural changes in many areas are causing people to rethink – this is also the case with sport. We speak of structural changes in sport because many important areas, perhaps those which tend to be taken for granted, change during the development of modern society. On the one hand this will include honorary positions, but the classical club structure as well as offers provided by sports facilities and sports locations will be affected by these changes.
The ageing of society leaves visible marks in many different social areas: already today many trades have no trainees and in the field of sport, clubs are suffering from a lack of members. The reason for this is the decrease in number of births, migration and the resulting higher number of deaths than births. Demographic change is a development which takes place over a very long period of time. It does not happen spontaneously. Immigration can help to relieve the problem in the short term, but cannot prevent it.
In sport, this signifies that even though it was possible in the last years to welcome many young people as new members of clubs, this number will drop unavoidably in the next years (approx.. 23%). This will make it more difficult for different regions to find young and talented athletes or to maintain teams. It also opens up possibilities for clubs to contact children and youngsters outside their target groups and also to concentrate their efforts towards the requirements of families and immigrants. As health and prevention are currently strong topics in the media and over-ageing is just as much a part of this, many new and optimised offers must be created to curb obesity and illness, but also to provide for all generations. Sports facilities should be designed, located and equipped accordingly so that they are always able to correspond to the increasingly complicated requirements of modern society. It is thus not sensible to close or merge sports facilities without in-depth examination of why they are not used to full capacity. One important factor here is politics. The range of sports on offer is a significant factor for making a location attractive. Faced with the actual trend pointing towards continually less public income from taxes, politicians must rethink currently available sports and their promotion. Over the last years, interesting and innovative financial models have been repeatedly introduced onto the market, which could provide new opportunities for a location with empty coffers.
Mönchengladbach – One example
In July 2013 the sport committee in Mönchengladbach, Germany, will have less money at its disposal according to a statement from the administration at the end of last year. The reason: by 2025 there will be around four thousand fewer athletes so that the number of sports facilities can also be reduced. In addition, sport at Mönchengladbach is increasingly transferring outside of clubs as it is becoming, “Older, female and less standardised,” according to the sport departmental head Dr. Gert Fischer. To achieve this, the administration has issued a sports facility development plan which is based on an inventory of sports facilities carried out in 2007 and which provides proposals for use of new areas and how old ones can become superfluous. It is also intended to concentrate more on trend sports in the city. “We need to fill it with life; but to do this, clubs must achieve more movement,” states the city sports authority Bert Gerkens. Even if the decrease in sportspeople is not forecast until 2025, this drop in numbers is already having an effect on the old structures. In earlier times, sport was carried out in clubs and schools which were provided with a range of sports facilities. With a change in this structure due to urbanisation and changes in sporting requirements (fitness studios, individual sports etc.) and a reduction in readiness to carry out voluntary work, new methods must be found to merger sport locations and maintain the existing ones. The large number of sports facilities results in over-capacity which must be reduced.
A further example – this time at Dormagen
Dormagen has a wide range of sports facilities. The town has not only sports halls and playing fields, but also two indoor swimming pools, an outdoor pool and, for example, a swimming lake, mini-golf courses, riding stables and skate parks. Many bicycle and hiking paths have been established. Just more than 400 associations are active in the town, of these 52 clubs. Every one of the sixteen city neighbourhoods has its own sports field – a luxury which will soon suffer from the red pen. Dormagen has recognised that the number of active sportspeople is decreasing as the number of children born is dropping and the population is becoming increasingly old – in the next ten years, the number of footballers is expected to drop by around 40% says the city treasurer Kai Uffelmann. Wiljo Wimmer, chairman of the CDU parliamentary group states: “There will soon only be two or three locations where refined training possibilities exist.” The large playing fields should be replaced by smaller ones, regions merge together and from 2014, clubs should be charged fees for use of the sports facilities.
Fees for use of sports facilities
Fees charged for use of sports facilities is a further topic of argument in many communities, but are intended to save urban public spending for real estate. To achieve this, the sports facilities would need to be converted into a kind of commercial business. For many critics, fees are a back door to budget reorganisation and would be a too heavy burden for the sports associations, paid in the end by the members. During the calculation work it is often overlooked that not all associations and their members can pay towards these costs. Children and youngsters under the age of 18 are not liable for payment and this also applies to clubs who have their own facilities. Of a total of 30,000 club members and 200 sport associations, more than half disappear from the calculation statistics and the costs for the remaining clubs and their members become rapidly more expensive. Additional costs are not particularly attractive either for potential new members or existing ones. Especially in cases with a decreasing number of members, this kind of measure are not helpful and in the long term, will not maintain the sports facilities themselves.
Structural change in voluntary work – a trend
It doesn’t work without: Approx. 38% of the population in Germany above the age of 18 years carry out voluntary work in different social areas, including sport. Youngsters are also active: According to a survey carried out by the German Federal Ministry for family, senior citizens, women and youngsters (Bundesministerium für Familien, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ), around 34% of all German citizens above the age of 14 years undertake voluntary work; 14% of these in the sports sector alone. This may appear to be a surprisingly large number at first glance, as mention is constantly made of decreasing numbers of volunteers. Sports associations continue their alarming reports that they can no longer find trainees willing to be group leaders or trainers. What causes this contradiction? When it comes down to I, change in values attached to voluntary work is dependent on the change in values of our society as a whole. Today’s voluntary workers have completely different motives for this kind of work than their earlier counterparts. In the meantime, individual freedom and personal growth are a central topic of socially propagated individualism and do not correspond to the originally supported beliefs that voluntary work is an activity based on altruism and charity and not serving personal further development. Today however, many people decide to take on a voluntary position for just these reasons and adjust it to suit their lifestyle. Earlier, the social environment defined the commitment, people were attached to a club or a church so that the work assumed a self-less character and was carried out voluntarily. Today, voluntary positions are often taken on to improve the person’s own qualifications or to earn a fee. In these cases, volunteers have become clearly more demanding as they identify with their tasks in a different way. It is often demanded that voluntary positions are held for many years, although this must also correspond to the life situation of the person. A student, for example, who creates and supports a homepage for his club, may not be able to continue the work after completion of his studies. If voluntary work disappears, the result will be not only financial consequences, but also the loss of important know-how and expertise which together, could make major projects possible. A more flexible approach from both sides can help to prevent this.
A statement from the City Sport Association of the city of Münster
In a statement, the city sport association of the German city of Münster writes that it considers the change towards calculation of voluntary work to give a financial value to be ominous as it emphasises the “paid relationship” in society. Its members are of the opinion that, “A voluntary position can become a place in life where social competence can be gained and practiced following the motto of an American scientist: ‘The elite of the future will be those who take care of the public welfare’ (Source: stadtsportbund-ms.de)”. For this reason, image campaigns must be drawn up in order to present the original voluntary work in the media as positive and honourable. Other related measures such as tax rebates or additional qualifications are not refused on principle, but should not be the foremost goal of a volunteer worker.
So now what?
Demographic change and the changes it brings to society are not a new topic to the media, but have been a continual point of discussion since the 1970s. Based on this, proposed measures such as budget cuts or charging of fees may appear finically sensible at first glance, but are not sustainable in the long term. They would have a negative effect on already existing sports offers and only support the already existing lack of activity by youngsters and senior citizens. New models must be created which are also financially compatible with the increasing age structure of society and which motivate younger generations to support the older ones or to create tasks for senior citizens. The feared negative trend contains a gigantic opportunity for our society to change together in a positive way and to reverse the effect of structural change in sport.