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New Zealanders’ engagement with grassroots sports clubs is increasingly casual

New Zealanders’ engagement with grassroots sports clubs is increasingly casual
October 13, 2023

In contrast to the decades-old tradition of members paying an annual or seasonal subscriptions, the  2023 National Sport Club Survey (NSCS) has revealed that New Zealand’s sport clubs are increasingly catering for casual members.

Released today, the survey shows that one-third of club respondents (35%) reported a rise in the number of members ‘paying to play’ - a development that the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association (NZASA) sees as having significant implications for those who manage and operate sport clubs.

Focusing on important organisational metrics that are tracked year-on-year, as well as new thematic areas specific to this year’s survey, the 2023 NSCS showed that the percentage of club respondents that reported losing money has dropped to 7.8%, a low for the last several years and an indication of post-pandemic financial stability.

It also showed that the average membership of a sport club in New Zealand (203 members) has been stable for the last two years, after dropping by as much as 12% in the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.

Commenting on the findings, NZASA Chair, Gordon Noble-Campbell advised “the resilience of community sport clubs reported by the 2023 survey is a positive sign, particularly given the upcoming challenges they will face in complying with the new incorporated societies legislative and regulatory framework”.

For the first time, the NSCS Project Team also looked on the way New Zealanders are engaging with sport clubs in their community - where the trend of sport clubs are increasingly catering for casual members was identified.

This is in contrast to the decades-old tradition of members paying an annual (or seasonal) subscription to belong.

With the over one-third of club respondents reporting a rise in members ‘paying to play’, NZASA explain “this has important implications (as) clubs that wish to facilitate participation from those not wishing to become members will need to consider new technology, payment options and marketing strategies.”

This year, club respondents were also asked to report on club practices related to disabled sport participants. While most club boards/committees (67%) rarely or never discuss disability sport at meetings, more than half (56%) have signalled an opportunity in future to engage a Regional Disability Sport Organisation on an initiative.

NSCS researcher and Project Co-Lead, Dr Mel Johnston noted “there is some way to go in ensuring disabled sport participation is on the radar at a community level, but the willingness conveyed here is a positive sign”.

Data on clubs’ involvement with schools was collected for the first time this year, with 65% of club respondents reporting some level of engagement with their local schools, while the vast majority that currently do not engage, feel that it is important to do so. Barriers identified included lack of time and resources, and receptiveness of schools, with the promotion of the club and recruitment of members being the primary benefits. The most popular ways of engaging with schools was reported to be through the exchange of facilities (35%) and/or coaches or coach training (36%), but a variety of other initiatives were also reported.

The NSCS is an annual snapshot of the management and operation of sport clubs.

2023 is the sixth year for the NSCS project, which is undertaken in collaboration between the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association (NZASA) and the Sport Performance Institute New Zealand based at Auckland University of Technology (AUT SPRINZ). The NSCS was conceived to complement a myriad of sport sector data at individual level by focusing on sport clubs as organisational entities and the hub of many communities across the country.

The 2023 NSCS was open from 17th August to 15th September with around 800 sport clubs engaging with the survey, across all 16 regions of New Zealand.

Further 2023 NSCS insights will be shared at workshops in partnership with Sport Manawatu on Wednesday 8th November and with Active Southland on Tuesday 14th November.

Visit for more information on survey insights and upcoming community workshops.

For further information on the New Zealand Amateur Sport Association Inc. go to

Image courtesy of Aktive Auckland.

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