Welcome change, Welcome women

Welcome change, Welcome women: The potential for sports clubs to engage the female market

Sports clubs play a vital role in reaching out to new and returning sports participants, as well as in engaging and retaining their current participants.  Sports clubs are therefore a fundamental vehicle for NGBs in driving increased participation to their sport.

For current club members, sports clubs offer them a “package” of benefits.  Not only does it provide them with the opportunity to participate in their favourite sport and reap the associated health and fitness benefits, it also offers them access to facilities, coaching and tuition, and most importantly an opportunity to participate, meet and socialise with like-minded people.

Sports clubs face a significant challenge, however, in overcoming the negative perceptions that prevent non-club members from being drawn to them.  Sports clubs are still very much associated with competitive participation.  As a result, the majority of women do not think that sports clubs are there for “people like them”.  Instead, sports clubs are perceived as being elitist, exclusive and ‘rigid’ in their delivery models.

In our research, the most common motivations women gave for participating in sport were fitness and fun rather than competition and skill acquisition.  Women  want to see sports clubs that are open and welcoming, that cater for a range of abilities, and that can offer them the flexibility they need to fit sport in to their increasingly complex and dynamic lives.  This should not divert attention away from the importance of continuing to deliver talent pathways, but alongside this sports clubs have a significant opportunity to grow women’s participation in sport if they become more inclusive.