As a retired local authority sports manager, I recall that I have always welcomed the annual review of charges for sports facilities published by sportscotland. Largely because it helped us benchmark our charges against our neighbouring local councils. These days most of these charges are set by the Leisure Trusts who are managing the sports centres and swimming pools for the local authority.
But through experience, I now recognize that this annual Review is nothing like the full picture on charges for sports facilities.We all need to be aware of a number of other factors:
A. These charges do vary considerably – as can be seen when you look at the minimum and maximum charges for any one activity or facility. Obviously the quality, and location of facilities will make a major difference.
B. The Report does not include school and community education sports facilities that hire or let out their facilities. Significantly many of the PPP build schools are currently a significant problem as the use of the school outside school hours has not been factored into the contract with the PPP contractors.
C. This Report does not include sports facilities that are leased to clubs – commonly bowling and football clubs.
D. The Report does not demonstrate the charges being made to sports clubs who may hire facilities for many hours every week.
E. Nor does the Report show the charges being made to commercial organizations, such as dog shows, exhibitions.
F. The Report does not show the charges being made by private contractors for their facilities ( viz. David Loyd, Bannermans, Virgin Active et al). This is important information for politicians – as sometimes it might be appropriate for some of these more commercial activities to be delivered by private contractors- and concentrating public funds on the more deprived communities and enabling and empowering the voluntary clubs.
G. The Review does not differentiate the charges being made to for facilities including facility management staff, and those facilities without staff. This is important, as many sports centres have a considerable management team – as they are being used primarily for “pay and play” activities. Whereas, sports clubs could often perform the facility management roles themselves. This shows the need to develop local sports facility strategies which ensure a full range of activities, and ensure the maximum cost effective usage of the facilities.
In conclusion. I think there is a need to pull all the sports facilities charges being made in local authority areas, to ensure transparency. These should try to take account of schools, community centres, sports centres, public pools, and the private providers. This information could then inform a framework for a local sports facility strategy. As for the school estates, I believe there is a need to ensure the sports facilities are designed and managed to be used both by the schools and by the community, and thereby become part of local sports facility strategies. If this becomes the case – it could be helpful to effectively establish a new local facility management system , fitting into the strategic agendas.
A new approach to facility management of school facilities could see facilities management removed from a headteachers remit. The new strategies would assist the local community clubs to self mange their own usage of facilities.
Audit Scotland should also be asked to consider a much broader agenda for audit – considering sport participation, facility management costs – in addition to the current audits of “pay and play “physical recreation.
I also believe Scotland should also consider benchmarking these approaches being made to this whole topic by our neighboring European countries. What are their facility charges and management costs? How do these countries ensure much lower costs for use of facilities by clubs?
The full ‘Charges for sports facilities: Scotland 2013/14’ review published by SportScotland can be found at the following link: