I owe a lot to grassroots sport.
As a skinny kid in the suburbs, I took great pride in being a part of the local footy club. Outside of school, it was my most tangible connection to the community. Neither of my parents were Australian born, and neither were connected in any way to Aussie Rules. So if I wanted to fit in with the kids on my block, footy was key.
Vivid memories of second-hand boots, screw-in studs, cold mud and Dencorub. Woollen jumpers far too big for my twig-like arms and massive opposition kids with muscles and a three-day-growth. The mighty Vampires won back-to-back flags in Under 12s and 13s, and I don’t think I got a kick in either final. (But I did win the Best Clubman Award in ‘83… the award that screams ‘nice guy to have around, but not much of a player.’) Glory days.
Fast forward twenty years and I find myself pulling on cricket whites and playing D-Grade for the Abbotsford Anglers. One day I was bowling errant leggies and mixing lime cordial on a hill in Hawthorn, the next I was in Mumbai, following a rowdy bunch of amateur athletes around India with a doco crew.
Community clubs didn’t just connect me to physical activity and fresh air. They connected me to lifelong friends, an evolving career and a still-burning passion for competition. And these same connections are happening week-in, week-out around the country. Grassroots clubs are a touchstone of communities everywhere, providing places and structure for people young and old to come together, have fun and find a sense of purpose and belonging.
And I’m lucky enough, through my work, to have the opportunity to give a little back to these humble but critical organisations.
The varied impacts of COVID-19 mean that many community sports clubs are struggling for cash right now. They’re missing out on subs, fundraising opportunities and local small-business sponsors. Volunteers and participants are stressed and stretched, facing uncertainty around future funding.
Last month, the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) released the results of a survey into the impact of COVID-19 on sporting activity. It found that over 16,000 community sports clubs are at risk of closure without financial support in the next six months. They estimate that $1.2 billion will be needed to keep these clubs alive.
Gemba and one of our key clients Toyota has a long-standing commitment to supporting community sport through elite partnerships. This year, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Toyota dialled-up their commitment to the AFL grassroots community and we’ve seen a huge response to their long-running support program, the Toyota Good for Footy Raffle. https://toyotagoodforfooty.raffletix.com.au/
Gemba has been part of Good for Footy since its inception in 2008. The long-running raffle makes fundraising easier for grassroots AFL clubs, providing a digital platform for clubs to utilise and all prizes for a massive raffle. Clubs register online and start selling tickets in their community, and they keep 100% of the proceeds from ticket sales. This year a massive 557 clubs across Australia have raised over $860,000. This more than doubles the $370,000 raised in 2019, and marks a record year in the raffle’s history.
The demand from clubs for these programs demonstrates their importance for the future of grassroots sport in this country, and the digital nature of the raffle ensures it can continue to support clubs during challenging times, like a viral pandemic. We didn’t see that coming when we made the shift from paper tickets!
This record year of fundraising pushed Toyota past a major milestone; since the Good for Footy and Good for Cricket programs were introduced, we’ve just topped $10 million for local clubs. That’s ten million dollars of contribution that helps keep the millions of participants and volunteers engaged with their local community. It helps enable every one of those special moments that can have a lifetime of positive impact.