The availability and use of community sport infrastructure enables physical activity and, by extension, supports health and wellness in our communities. It provides a space for people of different walks of life to connect around common objectives, it supports employment and the economy, and it is a critical requirement for liveable cities and neighbourhoods.
Sport is synonymous with the Australian culture and psyche. As a nation we intuitively understand its benefits, whether that be in relation to the health and wellbeing benefits of participating in sport or the national pride from major sporting triumphs on the world stage.
What is less understood, or at least less discussed, is the role and place of sport infrastructure and more specifically, community sport infrastructure. Yet, without the appropriate infrastructure and facilities to support sport and physical activities many of the associated benefits would be left unrealised. Further, those at the grassroots level understand that community sport infrastructure can be much more than just a place to play sport and that such facilities are critical infrastructure for the broader community.
It is with this in mind that the Sport Australia partnered with KPMG and La Trobe University to investigate the value of community sport infrastructure to Australia – including the value of economic, social and health benefits associated with such facilities.
While the economic, social and health benefits of sport and physical activity more generally are well-documented, this study represents an unprecedented shift in focus by exploring the value delivered and supported by community sport infrastructure itself.
Community sport infrastructure is estimated to generate an annual value of more than $16.2 billion to Australia, with $6.3 billion worth of economic benefit, $4.9 billion worth of health benefit and $5.1 billion worth of social benefit.
The $6.3 billion worth of economic benefit includes the economic activity associated with the construction, maintenance and operation of community sport infrastructure and the increased productivity of those who are physically active as a result of such infrastructure.
The $4.9 billion worth of health benefit includes personal benefits to those who are less likely to contract a range of health conditions which are known to be associated with physical inactivity and the benefits to the health system from a healthier population.
The $5.1 billion worth of social benefit includes the increased human capital resulting from the social interactions that are facilitated by community sport infrastructure and the broader community benefits of providing 'green space' (e.g. sports fields).
In addition, community sport infrastructure is a key driver and enabler of a range of other benefits which can only be considered on a qualitative basis at this point in time, such as social inclusion and community pride.
Without community sport infrastructure, delivery of the combined health, social and economic benefits outlined in this report would not be achieved. Positive social and health outcomes occur through participation in recreation-based activities, however community sport infrastructure is a critical factor that amplifies outcomes across the participation spectrum; from volunteers and officials to team members and social supporters.
Community sport infrastructure is of significant value to the Australian community and while this value has long been understood by sector participants, articulation of this value has largely been in qualitative terms and potentially too focused on the value of sport alone.
In a competitive funding environment, proponents of community sport infrastructure projects must be able to demonstrate that their proposals will deliver value to their communities more broadly than only to direct interest groups (whether that be sports clubs, state sporting organisations, or other community groups).
Further, the benefits of community sport infrastructure, as identified in this study, are directly aligned to the objectives of governments at all levels across Australia. Specifically, the availability and use of community sport infrastructure enables physical activity and, by extension, supports health and wellness in our communities, it provides a space for people of different walks of life to connect around common objectives, it supports employment and the economy, and it is a critical requirement for liveable cities and neighbourhoods.
It is acknowledged that governments at all levels significantly contribute to the provision of community sport infrastructure, however, the wide range of benefits brings with it a unique opportunity for further collaboration across governments and government departments to deliver improved value to their communities.
This study is just the beginning. It is hoped this report will play a role in transitioning the conversation around the provision of community sport infrastructure from one of 'cost' to one of 'investment, impact and value'. The findings of this report will also assist with facilitating future strategy and planning decision making and ensure that the investment in community sport infrastructure by all stakeholders is commensurate with outcomes generated by such infrastructure.