This paper is written to aid discussion about the self management of sports facilities by “the community”.
It is written at a time of unprecedented increase in sports facility hire charges. Often brought about by the fiscal challenges being faced by the country and in particular by the owners of most sports facilities in Scotland- the local authorities (LA’s). But of course, there are also facilities owned by other organisations.
Sometimes facility charges try to maximise income, sometimes they try to cover more of the running costs of the facility. Often the charges do not reflect the anti social times that facilities are being used. Often charges are not based on like-for-like facilities (size, ancillary facilities, or staffing requirement).
The Scottish Government is currently developing new legislation surrounding a Community empowerment Bill, including the transfer of assets. Could there be some opportunities here for hard pressed community sports clubs?
It would of course be sensible to ensure that Local authorities ( LA’s) in particular kept an “eagle eye” on their assets and develop a local sports facility strategy which encompasses all kinds of sports and all kinds of providers.
The actual ownership of all facilities should also be enshrined in all agreements. If required by owners, the properties might be repossed by the owners. In my view it would also be sensible to consider leases and “extended lets” of facilities under this legislation. This would have the benefit of facilitating maximum use of the facilities, with potential to reduce the central running cots to local authorities.
It is important to take time to work up any lease or letting agreement, specifying core hours of use, the kinds of use of the facility (ensuring that the facility owner retains an overview of the purposes of usage). It would be important to ensure there is reasonable flexibility in any agreed contracts.
It might also be appropriate to develop management agreements that describe the modus operandi – including management agreements about opening hours; user policies; safety; cleanliness: wear and tear; breakage/replacement; associated costings; schedules if required.
And finally a business plan should be developed each year by the community organisation to be shared and viewed annually by the facility owner. This plan would contain the important financial planning information and costs.
In discussing costs of the leases and lets, it is very important to recognise the different kinds of community organisations. Most community sports clubs will be non commercial and managed by the volunteers, who may hire in turn professional coaches. But there are also commercial sports clubs who run their clubs for profit. The hire/lease costs can reflect these differences.
There are many examples of different types of community self management – particularly in northern European countries.
Safety becomes one of the biggest facets of self management. Clubs take ownership of the safety arrangements. In Scotland, in swimming for example, clubs would require to consider and follow the advice contained in the Health and Safety Executive Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools 2003.
Frequently account needs to be taken of any other users of a building or facility. Agreements are advised between partners to ensure clarity of purpose and economy of effort.
Ideally, the facilities are designed to accommodate the particular users, and include the latest security software to reduce heating and lighting expense. I am not persuaded that in Scotland, we require so many staff for facility management, if clubs can take more responsibility themselves.
I do hope that all those concerned about the state of community sport in Scotland, can become much more engaged at looking at how to bring down the facility costs to clubs, and also ensure that existing sports facilities are used to the maximum.