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The Tech Transformation of Grassroots Sport

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Ollie Howard
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The Tech Transformation of Grassroots Sport

Grassroots sport was hit hard by the pandemic. Restrictions on mass grouping left millions of participants unable to play organised sport throughout 2020, and tightening of corporate budgets crippled many local clubs who survive on sponsorship funding.

A key pillar in the revival of grassroots sport lies in technology.  Dynamic and evolving technologies are driving change across the grassroots sport sector, affecting everything from administration to sponsorship to high performance sport and talent identification.

The back office is the backbone of grassroots sport.  A fundamental part of running any successful club or competition. And for too long we have relied on volunteers going above and beyond to ensure the game runs smoothly, or even runs at all.

The pain points of sports administration are varied and deep: collecting payments, rostering, fixturing, record keeping, gathering team data, and so on.  Archaic paper-based processes and systems create wasted time in notoriously under-resourced and under-funded organisations.

Digital solutions to the rescue! We are seeing new and better solutions improving grassroots sporting organisations, increasing participation and also giving volunteers time back to contribute in more valuable ways to their clubs. In this article we are focusing on three of the most common issues faced by grassroots sporting organisations and some solutions that could be the answers we’ve all been waiting for.

Officials Management: refbook

Nearly all organised sports require an official, to play the game.  However referee and umpire administration is one of the biggest headaches for grassroots sporting associations. They are seriously under-resourced and often use time consuming solutions such as poorly managed group chats and Excel spreadsheets to find the appropriate officials for their games.

refbook presents a new take on digital officiating management solutions.  It’s a multi-sport platform that allows administrators to easily connect, manage, appoint and track sports officials with less manual workload and improved accuracy.

"I've lived and breathed sports officiating for over 20 years, working from the local levels through to international tournaments and national leagues. From this experience I understand the pain points faced by officials and their administrators along the sports pathway. These challenges are often more complex and greater felt at the grassroots level where personnel is limited and often part-time or volunteer based. refbook aims to facilitate officials administration better than the other solutions in the marketplace, thanks to our unique way of thinking and extensive roadmap. We're tackling the day-to-day problems for a segment of sport that is regularly undervalued and under-resourced." Jon Chapman, Co-founder, refbook

It’s also providing a bridge to fellow associations, creating an ecosystem that breaks down the current silos which make the administration of sports officials so difficult and frustrating. Across their two-sided platform, refbook is easing this laborious task for assignors, and putting time back in their hands to better support their association, as well as providing officials themselves an opportunity to better organise the games they officiate through one seamless platform.

Broadcast: Sportvot

Another common issue faced by grassroots sport is broadcasting.

Outside of a few professional leagues in Australia, a sport fan's ability to stream their favourite sport or local league is still a pipe dream.  As advancements in broadcast continue to be made at the highest levels of professional sport, a drip-down effect has enabled grassroots to capture and build a platform to broadcast their sport.

Sportvot is leading the charge at grassroots level!  An all-encompassing platform for sport bodies to stream their games online, providing a Kayo-type experience for a local cricket or netball club.

“SportVot is simple and easy to use for any sports organisation, no matter how big or small, it gives a sports body a platform without significant investment in infrastructure or large software subscription fees. Our biggest objective is to democratise the access to quality sports production for all.” Sidhhant Agarwal, Co-founder, Sportvot

On top of providing a platform for grassroots sport to be broadcasted, it’s also opening possible revenue streams through digital sponsorship and advertising, as well as talent identification for young stars who may have escaped the limited spotlight currently available at lower levels.

Sponsorship: Sponsa

During the pandemic, there were reports that 16,000 Australian community sport clubs (1 in every 4 nationwide) could fold as a result of COVID-19. With a lack of play on the field, paired with the struggles of local businesses across 2020, a gaping hole formed in grassroots sponsorship.

In order to combat this clear drop in sponsorship, Sponsa has created a sponsorship marketplace for grassroots sport, that helps sporting organisations sell their sponsorship opportunities, saving sponsors time and money by streamlining the acquisition process.

"The Sponsa marketplace provides an alternative to the 20-page PDF proposals that land across desks, often unread and unconsidered. The ability for sponsors to discover and request sponsorship opportunities online is allowing sellers and buyers to connect faster with better relevance. As all of these stakeholders continue to require more speed and more transparency on both sides of the coin, continuing to make these processes digital is imperative to a thriving sponsorship industry." - Jackson Dickfos, Co-founder, Sponsa

Sponsa’s approach to sponsorship is allowing grassroots clubs to connect with some of Australia’s leading brands, and creating clear pathways to consistent sponsorship dollars that can overtake the current reliance on local businesses to prop up sports clubs.

As well as grassroots solutions, Sponsa’s marketplace has also assisted major clubs in securing new sponsors, with the likes of Melbourne Victory also signing sponsorship agreements through the platform, demonstrating the need for a clearer landscape in the world of sports sponsorship

As grassroots sport rebounds from the pandemic, technology has a major role to play in paving the way for Australia to unlock its true potential as a passionate sporting nation. Through these innovative solutions, Australia will continue to bounce back stronger out of the pandemic, with a much more efficient, forward-thinking and engaging environment for the sports fans and participants of the future.

Ollie Howard avatar

Ollie Howard

Sports & EventTech Managing Director @ Startupbootcamp Australia