On Saturday 9 September 2023, EFSC Chair Martin Turnbull made a presentation at the Scottish ClubSport Conference 2023 ‘Championing Club Sport’. We are delighted to share his presentation and thank everyone involved in helping produce this.
Advocacy & Partnerships
The theme of our presentation focuses on The 3 Cs – Communication, Consistency and Creativity, and you’ll now hear how we put this into practice.
We are delighted to be asked to speak on behalf of East Fife Sports Council and thank Scottish Club Sport for giving us this opportunity.
I will start with an overview of how our work has changed since 2019, as in September that year our local leisure centres lost opening hours due to budgetary constraints and a subsequent redesign of services, so we started discussions with our MP, Councillors and Fife Sports and Leisure Trust about this undesirable change. However, by March 2020, we had cancelled our Awards Ceremony just 3 days before the event as covid took hold and the world had stopped. But our Chair at that time Rona McCraw, who is here today, had other ideas.
We moved quickly to work digitally and to reassure our members that we were there to help. As one of the first to hold a digital AGM, we also reviewed our Constitution to reflect this. Member surveys informed our priorities, and in 2020 and 2021 we held digital Awards and set up a Covid Emergency Grant to run alongside our Development Grant, providing extra funds to clubs as they started activities again once lockdowns eased. As a course organiser, we also supported Sportscotland’s transition to deliver the Child Wellbeing and Protection in Sport course online, and we offer this, and Emergency First Aid, training at no cost to our members.
The locked-down months saw an explosion of online events, which provided the opportunity to get involved in conversations at different levels of sport, and interestingly at the national level where we were able to make key points about sport on the ground in our dispersed rural area and what the challenges were. We found we were unsurprisngly not alone in these.
I took over as Chair as life returned to normal, this was an exciting time to consider how sport and physical activity had changed, both in our minds and how it was now being delivered in our rural area. We continued to advocate for our leisure centres, meeting with NE Fife Area Committee, who passed a Motion with Fife Council in support of equal access to leisure facilities. The relationship with Fife Sports and Leisure Trust was strengthening and we had formed the basis of a new swimming partnership with the local high school, which we will hear more about shortly.
Last summer, we attended the Scottish Sport Association’s Cross-Party Group on Sport meeting in the Scottish Parliament, which was a great opportunity to hear from a range of organisations and people involved in sport across Scotland. We continue to take part in and contribute to these meetings.
We were also very grateful to Rick Kenney and the Borders ClubSport team who met with us last summer to guide us on how to develop our own strategy by creating a SWOT analysis. This was added as an agenda point to our meetings, so that we now continually discuss and review our priorities.
I would like to show two case studies that illustrate and define our approach, the first is about Fife School Aquatics Group: a partnership set up between ourselves, Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, Bell Baxter High School, Active Schools and Cupar and District Swimming Club, to link the school with the sports centre and pool. By creating a training hub and providing training, qualifications and employability opportunities for pupils, this also assisted in staffing of the centre and increased access to swimming lessons. We’ll hear more now from some of the team and young participants.
Support & Celebrate
Great thanks go to the Fife School Aquatics Group. I would like to talk now about our funding and strategy. We are very grateful to receive recurring funding from Fife Council and have the next 3 year’s funding secured. As part of Fife Council’s Physical Activity & Sport Strategy for the years 2022-25, a leadership group was set up and this allowed us to work alongside our colleagues in the Active Fife network. I am delighted that Bill Hogg, our link officer for Fife Council’s Sports Development team, joins us today and he will give an overview of the current situation.
Thank you to EFSC for inviting me to speak today. I would like to give a short update on some of the work our team are involved in. Active Fife – Made up of Active Communities Team (1 Manager, 3 SDOs, 2 PAO’s, 1 CDO, 2 Foot DOs, 2 Foot Assists), Active Schools Team (1 Manager, 21 ASCs, 1 Comm Sports Hub Officer), 16 Community Use Schools, FSLT Facilities. From Fife Council’s Physical Activity & Sport Strategy 2022-25 our Key Priorities are:
* Reduce inequalities in physical activity and sport across Fife
* Increase and sustain physical activity, physical confidence, and sport participation
* Build resilient communities that are physically active and participate in sport
* Invest in facilities and infrastructure for physical activity and sport
* How Sports Dev team coordinate with 3 sports councils
Fife Council have 3 year Service Level Agreements in place with our 3 sports councils: 1 Sports Development Link officer to each Sports Council, attending at least 4 meetings per year, and submitting 3 year monitoring form. Although the 3 Sports Councils have similar goals/targets they work towards, they all deliver these in slightly different ways due to the nature of their geography and clubs.
New sports – pickleball courts. One of the standout examples of joined up working with key partners has been pickleball in the St Andrews area. A small group of individuals highlighted their desire to participate in pickleball, EFSC liaised with Fife council to identify facilities that could be accessed to allow participation. Daryl Keddie from Community use schools identified an area at the new Madras College Facility and painted new Pickleball courts for the community to access. This may have taken far longer for the progress without EFSC knowing the best partners to take the request forward.
Club Fife Accreditation – we work with local clubs to assist with governance, so schools and parents can be assured the clubs have relevant qualifications, PVG, child protection and first aid in place.
In recent years, our holiday programs have changed, with key partnership working to identify areas where we can support and reduce duplication. Providing coaches for Active Fife sports camps at Community Use Facilities. Also working with Café Inc, provides free structured activity while providing free lunches to families within disadvantaged communities.
Our Bums off Seats programme provides 17 Led Walks across Fife per week, with 45 volunteers trained up as walk leaders, with some participants up to 85 years old. Awards & funding and training calendar for coaches and volunteers – both Fife Council and EFSC provide grant aid support to individual athletes, Clubs, Coaches and Officials. Finally, our Sports Councils also host annual awards evenings, celebrating the excellent work being done by the local clubs, coaches, participants, and volunteers in the area.
I would like to thank EFSC for all the work they have done over the years and look forward to continuing our work together.
Thank you Bill. During covid we had learned about the importance of communication and asking our members for feedback – to help us to become more creative and make changes to what we as a sports council could offer. Our first consideration was – what clubs needed most, was not to be given more to do. It is well known they are run by a committed few, so helping volunteers became key to our approach. By taking away barriers – whether financial, travel or time – we could help our clubs recruit and allow them to evolve in their own communities.
We continued to carefully review our Constitution and our policies to keep up with changes in sport and physical activity. We decided to invest in a website upgrade, to simplify and reduce the time required for our processes. And so our Affiliations, Awards nominations and Grant applications all went online, including direct payments and forms that were clear and straightforward.
The continuity of our Awards Ceremony provides an anchor in the year for our sporting community, whether online or in person. Over the last 3 years the focus moved to reflect what our clubs were doing, celebrating not just sporting achievements but also those supporting, and especially those championing, new initiatives and approaches to community engagement.
As Bill mentioned, we were seeing and learning about new sports and activities, for example pickleball, surfing and the Wave project, and beach volleyball. There was an explosion in water sports: sailing, rowing, open water pools, swimming, and triathlon. But we also became more aware that there were new issues starting to challenge our clubs.
In early 2022, a generous donor match funded a new grant we were planning. This was to evolve the Covid Emergency Grant we already had in place into funding for more targeted community work around participation, inclusion and focused physical and mental health outcomes. It became our Community Development Grant offering grants to our members up to a substantial £2000.
We would now like to show you our second case study from Falkland Cricket Club, who received this particular funding, and we are going to hear from their current President Robbie Nellies who will explain a little bit more.
Young People & Volunteers
Many thanks go to Robbie and Falkland Cricket Club. As we reach the conclusion of our presentation, I would like to turn now to talk more about the challenges and opportunities we see ahead, as informed by our clubs.
Over the last year we have stepped in to support where facilities are being lost. Our local university decided to replace the only athletics facility in E Fife with astroturf pitches, so with local Councillors we formed a working group of key stakeholders, including the university, to support how we can continue the provision of athletics in the area; this work is ongoing. We also mediated on behalf of a football and bowling club who worked together when a change in land use proposed by National Trust for Scotland threatened the clubs’ historic agreements; in the end the proposal was dropped. Being able to help in both these situations, showed how as being independent we could help to open constructive communication between all involved.
In 2019 we started planning a Young People’s Panel. Covid stalled this, but gave us time to plan what we were hoping to achieve, which was not straightforward due to some of the disclosure rules around how we could interact with U18s. By 2021 we recruited two young people and by 2022 we formed a panel of four. Learnings so far demonstrate a significant resource demand in doing this, that communication can be challenging and that sustainability is crucial to success.
We are looking for the voice of young people about sport in our area, we strive to link schools and clubs more effectively to benefit both. We wish to ensure that all sports are recognized and given importance within schools, not just the larger key sports. The choice of sport in schools has reduced, due to available facilities and sometimes to the sports of the PE teachers. Some so-called lesser sports are obviously missing, like swimming or athletics. There is less extra-curricular sport too, feedback from our clubs suggests a tighter focus on funding and safeguarding could be causing barriers to this? This is an area where we see a lot to do and we are very grateful for the close working relationship we have with our Active Schools colleagues.
Recently we added a new agenda point to our meetings regards support for elite-level athletes. We are aware that East Ayrshire Sports Council are looking at this too. Our members tell us that support through this pathway is scarce, particularly in funding and especially when extra travel is involved. This is tricky to address at a time when finances in general are under pressure and when sport is moving its focus to participation, but we hope to be able to contribute to a wider conversation about this.
The biggest issue we see now is a lack of, and falling numbers, of volunteers. This is of course a much larger question, but from our rural position, we see transport, time, training, safeguarding and competing commitments as key factors. We would like to work more with governing bodies to feedback on this. Recent changes to qualifications, safeguarding and subsidies are creating barriers – the harder we make it and the more expectation we put on volunteers, the less likely they are to put their hand up. Taking the decision to put time and money into training to then commit to delivering a sport or activity on a voluntary basis – sometimes multiple times a week, and in most cases to children – is huge. Safeguarding and wellbeing focuses on children, however we have now added volunteer protection to our agenda, again prompted by our members and we hope others will join us in considering this more carefully.
We have grown our membership by 20% since 2019. We consider Communication is key to our success and by Continuing our service and using our SWOT analysis alongside feedback from our members, we can ensure we are in a position to Create solutions for the challenges that arise.
I would like to finish by saying that we were honoured to be awarded Sports Council of the Year by Scottish Club Sport last year. We are committed to our members and to helping represent sport in our rural area, and within Scotland.