The role of volunteers in sport

Joey van Kuilenburg, Founder @ Victoryz
November 22, 2017

Nathaniel Yeo

By definition, a volunteer is someone who devotes his time and work to a particular goal and activity without receiving payment or for which that person receives a small, symbolic remuneration in return.

Did you know that many sports clubs out there heavily rely on the contribution brought by volunteers?

People have different reasons why they start volunteering in sports, but all have in common one thing: the wish to give something to their community.

For many sport clubs out there volunteers are valuable resources without whom they wouldn’t be able to survive and offer interesting activities and programs. Volunteers do not only contribute to the social environment around clubs but their work also has a very important economic value. For example in Australia, the labour input of the 2.3 million volunteers in sport is estimated to be at AUD $4 billion annually.

In Europe, sports clubs are ‘run’ by volunteers. On average, there is 1 volunteer in a fixed position for every 5 members. If your assumption is that volunteers do the work that everyone avoids doing, that’s not the case. Taking the example of Europe again, volunteers perform jobs which are very important in the functioning of a sports club. It follows that most of the volunteers in fixed positions do administrative and management (48%), followed by sport and training (30%), sport and competition (12%) tasks, with only (10%) doing other tasks.

For the Dutch, both sport and volunteering play an important role. In 2015, around 9 million out of a population of almost 17 million people were participating in sport on a regular basis. And the number of volunteers in sport is even more impressive, with 1.5 million people volunteering. In the UK, around 3.2 million people volunteer in sport and physical activities, with 1 volunteer helping 8.5 people to become active in local sport.

As a sports fan, you are for sure following the big sports events. Did you ever think about how many volunteers help in the organization and running of such events? For example, more than 3.000 volunteers will be needed in the organization and running of the 2018 Glasgow multi-sport European Championships. People interested to volunteer had to submit their applications a year before the start of the games. This shows that the work done by volunteers is highly valued, this being the reason why their recruitment process is taken so seriously. 

As a result of the great work that volunteers do, volunteering is highly encouraged in sports. More and more opportunities are also offered for disabled people wishing to engage in volunteering. For example, there were thousands of disabled volunteers who worked at the London 2012 Paralympics.  

Sports clubs are also encouraged to create programs to welcome more volunteers and retain their existing ones.

Lastly, it is not only about offering their time and work to the community but also about receiving back. According to research made in the UK, the well-being and happiness of volunteers increase as a result of their participation in sports activities. 


Read more about volunteering in sport on:

Characteristics of European sports clubs. A comparison of the structure, management, voluntary work and social integration among sports clubs across ten European countries


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