Watching the pennies and the people – how volunteer led sport facilities have cut costs and improved the quality of service for local communities

Lindsay Findlay-King, Geoff Nichols, Deb Forbes, Gordon Macfadyen

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This paper will show how the transfer of public leisure facilities to management led by volunteers (Findlay-King et al, 2017) has transformed services, with improved performance in usage, income and expenditure. This paper uses data collected from interviews with key personnel (volunteers, managers and local authority officers) at 8 sport facilities to explore the management of facilities transferred to volunteer led community groups, in response to local authority funding cuts. The findings are explored in relation to social enterprise literature and in particular Simmons (2008) positive review of the social entrepreneurial benefits of the large leisure trusts in the early ‘00s and Reid’s (2003) similar appraisal of ‘third way’ management of services. Whilst running costs have been cut by attention to detail, the service has also become more sensitive and flexible to meet the needs of the local community. Volunteers are their own marketing information system, with roots in that community. The politics of these enterprises can reveal limitations and problems, for example the redundancy, or less favourable conditions, of paid employees; and the marginalisation of some classes from volunteer and customer groups. Nevertheless, the positive outcomes of volunteer led management can reduce costs and enhance quality; driven partly by the need to attain sustainability; economically and in terms of becoming regarded as an asset created by the community as well as consumed by it. Thus they retain many of the advantages of the first wave of leisure trusts established in the 1990’s but at a smaller scale.Findlay-King, L., Nicholls, G, Forbes, D. & Macfadyen, G. (2017) ‘Localism and the Big Society: the asset transfer of leisure centres and libraries – fighting closures or empowering communities?’ Leisure Studies 0:0, 1-13.Reid, G. (2003) ‘Charitable trusts: municipal leisure's "third way'?’ Managing Leisure 8:4, 171-183.Simmons, R. (2008) ‘Harnessing Social Enterprise for Local Public Services.’ Public Policy and Administration 23:3, 278-301.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2017
EventUK Sport Development Network Conference - Plymouth St Mark and St John University, Plymouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Nov 201717 Nov 2017


ConferenceUK Sport Development Network Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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