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The compelling case to increase investment in WA community sport

What if I told you that if you made an investment on the stock exchange, you were going to reap a return of 700 per cent in just 12 months? I am willing to suggest you would want the name of that stock.

In this case the stock is organised WA sport.

For a long time, WA sport has been recognised as providing a range of economic, health, social and community benefits however, as an industry, we have struggled to quantify and articulate this value in real dollar terms.

Over the past 12 months, SportWest has developed an actual value of WA organised community sport.

One of the key findings was that for every dollar of economic and social investment into sport, more than $7 of economic and social benefit are fostered and organised sport in WA delivers an estimated gross benefit of $10.3 billion per year, yes, billion!

Those involved in sport have known the value for many years but now we have a value that we can quantify into dollars and cents. We no longer have to rely on anecdotal stories about how good it is that people in our society, in particular children, love their sport and it makes them smile.

Sport played a huge role in connecting people during the pandemic and now we can drill down and tell you that sport returns $1.8 billion per year in mental health benefits.

Sport provides an economic and employment gross social benefit of $4.85 billion per annum, accounting for nearly half the overall benefit.

If you crunch these figures down to an individual level, each participant in organised sport in WA realises a return of $10,178 from their participation.

These are staggering figures and will allow SportWest and the industry to illustrate to all levels of government and the corporate sector, the true value of community sport.

The importance of this data cannot be understated, it’s a game changer for WA sport.

SportWest looks forward to advocating for increased investment in sport from the grassroots up. But with investment comes the need for support.

WA sport is underpinned by the hard work and dedication of 5,500 sport administrators, the equivalent of three to four iron ore mining sites, and an army of volunteers who coach, umpire, officiate, cut oranges, run the club or deliver programs.

Outside paid staff, we estimate that sport survives and thrives on some 41.9 million volunteer hours, the equivalent of 21,511 full time workers at a social cost of $852 million.

Governments at all levels need to support grassroots volunteers who make WA community sport tick. Some of the increased investment in sport needs to be directed to reduce the burdens on volunteers with the goal of attracting more volunteers to lessen the load.

As we begin to focus on what has been coined the “green and gold runway”, with the Victorian 2026 Commonwealth Games and 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon, it is critical that we don’t lose focus on the importance of grassroots community sport.

The Brisbane 2032 Games should not be seen as a destination. Rather, the Games should be seen as the beginning of a new generation of children who are inspired by sport, further embedding the importance of sport into our community’s fabric.

It cannot be undersold, it is important that we support those on the frontline of community sport.

The data this project has delivered will now allow sport to provide a compelling case to both government and the commercial sector as to why investment in sport is a good investment.

Greater investment and an increased understanding of the value of sport across the entire community is required if sport is going to continue to deliver quality outcomes for the community in the areas of economic, health, social and community benefits.

By. Matt Fulton, Chief Executive Officer, SportWest

First published in The West Australian on Monday, 22 August 2022.

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