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FEATURE: Creating your own amateur sports club: is it worth it?

Published on In London, thanks to its many parks, there are always certain people who prefer to spend Saturday evening playing sport rather than going on a pub crawl. And their number is increasing every year, making passion in sports a powerful instrument in community creation.

And it is logical that sooner or later, there comes the time when these local sport communities feel the need to grow into something more serious than week-end friendly games in the park. So, after the long procedure of registration and licensing, it results in the creation of amateur sports clubs that are competing in various London amateur leagues.

Sometimes this transition could even be more rapid. For example, Egidijus Sakalauskas, a rugby player from Lithuania, created his own rugby club by just placing an ad in the local London newspaper. This ad had a response from many of his compatriots, so the club was named accordingly - London Lithuanian rugby club. The ethnic factor was also important in the sense that one of the Lithuanian embassy members helped the team to register in 7th division of the Essex merit table. “Now we are at the top of our league and I’m sure soon we’ll promote even higher,” says Egidijus. “And now we have our own home ground. This ground’s previous owner team split up and Barking Borough Council helped to transfer it into our ownership.”

Sergej Skeberdis, the owner of Baks ltd building company, shares his experience in financing their own volleyball team that is also named Baks and evolved from the group of people that spent the weekends playing volleyball in Mile End Park.

“Basically, to obtain the license, each of the players should submit separate application,” says Sergej. The cost of each application is £150. “Also for each licensed team it is necessary to have its own home ground to play home fixtures. For example, our team is officially located in Becontree, because it is simply cheaper to rent a court there.” 

“Every squad member has to pay a monthly subscription fee of £25. Every newbie also needs to pay a £100 deposit,” Sergej continues. “My personal investment in the team is about £200 per month. This money forms our team’s budget.”

But absolute majority of this money goes on sports equipment and things that has little relation to the sport directly. “For example, volleyball balls and team kits cost about £50 each, and we usually need about 20 sets of team kits per season, not to mention the number of balls,” Sergey explains. “Also, league regulations require every team to purchase several specific things like the volleyball referee stand that in itself is quite expensive – £500. Every team in our division is also required to pay for referee services every game.”

Such simple maths shows that even the maintenance of the amateur team requires at least high level of income of its owner. And one of his main duties is a constant search for sponsors. 

In this regard, London Lithuania RFC was much more fortunate. “At the moment we are being sponsored by one of the Lithuanian food wholesalers. We place their ad on our shirts. Just like it’s done in professional sports,” Egidijus smiles. “But, of course, at the initial stage we paid for everything out of pocket.”

Another option for funding-hungry amateur clubs could be the CASC (Community Amateur Sports Club). This scheme is working since 2002 and its target is to encourage local amateur sports club to register with the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and receive several tax reliefs. This scheme could be useful for newly-established amateur sports clubs, but it is worth considering that the application process is quite complex and it doesn’t provide full cost recovery.

Therefore, every group of enthusiasts who wants to test their strength on the amateur sports level needs to think deeply before creating a proper amateur club out of their local community. And if your competitive spirit and passion outweighs the possible costs - you should definitely give this idea a try.

Image credits: cascinfo.co.uk
This article was written on 21 March 2014 as an assignment in Sports Journalism module at City University London.