The cost-of-living crisis is hitting community sports hard, with families struggling to pay for extra-curricular activities for children.

Saturday morning sports are a huge part of growing-up in Australia, with children getting a chance to improve their gross motor skills, exercise and learn the values of teamwork and comradery by participating in a range sports.

However, the financial pinch is impacting junior and local sport with many struggling to make ends meet.

Despite the recent decline in participation numbers, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has estimated that Australians spent $18.7 billion on sport and physical pursuits in the 2022-23 financial year, up from $10.7 billion from five years before.

In addition, it is estimated that the average adult will spend about $1300 annually on their sporting endeavours.

The  ASC also reports that children’s sports cost about $1400 a year, about double the amount spent for the five years prior.

Sutherland Shire Sporting Competition player Charlie Goonan has been involved in a range of different sports in the area.

Mr Goonan also has two younger sisters, meaning he knows all about the harsh financial costs for a sport loving family.

“When sports become too expensive for families, it creates a barrier to entry that can push them away from participation,” he said.

“Families facing financial constraints may find it difficult to afford registration fees, equipment costs, and other expenses associated with sports programs.

“As a result, children from these families may miss out on the physical, social, and developmental benefits that sports offer.”

Mr Goonan said sport can be a vital part of a child and even an adult’s life, and believes that local sporting associations must make a play before it is too late.

“Junior sport is one thing that our community cannot surrender, with the rising registration costs and the annual pricey gear purchase it is a possibility,” he said.

“By implementing strategies like fundraisers, sponsorships and payment plans, it could ensure these families do not miss out on something they love.”

According to a survey conducted by the Not-For-Profit Australian Sports Foundation( ASF) in 2022, nearly 50 per cent of junior sporting clubs in Australia saw a decline in membership due to the financial burden.

The ASF was formed to tackle issues such as a decline in membership, and it has been helping clubs and athletes fundraise for nearly 30 years.

The ASF website states: “To further address the funding shortfall the Sports Foundation has successfully gained charitable status to enable private and public ancillary funds to invest in a sporting future where everyone can play”.

The foundation aims to provide affordable and convenient physical activity resources, coming at a crucial time, where  Australia ranks 140th in the world for teenagers not reaching their recommended physical activity.

Sutherland Shire Soccer association member Declan Bourke has been a player, coach and a referee, and has encouraged children to join junior sport in their community.

“Community sport is pivotal to a young child and their development,” Mr Bourke said.

“Physical activity has been proven beneficial for children of all ages, and can improve their social skills too as they continue to grow and mature.”

Mr Bourke has seen the impact the financial crisis is having on community sport, with team numbers on the decline. He believes that there are a number of projects and initiatives that sporting associations must consider to address the issue.

“Initiatives such as payment plans and cheaper uniforms would help parents financially support their kids to follow their sporting aspirations,” Mr Bourke said.

“Volunteering numbers in junior sport are extremely low, so maybe a volunteer initiative in exchange for registrations would be beneficial.”

Clearing House for Sport, which is an information and knowledge platform for grassroot sport in Australia collects participation numbers for all levels of sport in Australia.

According to its research, participation in sport and physical activity has increased over the last two decades. Despite this, Australia has witnessed a decline in all physical activity by 4 per cent between 2019 and 2023.

The Office for Sport is currently developing a new National Sport Strategy. The strategy, which will replace Sport 2030, will set a shared vision and priorities for sport and will align and leverage key Australian Government sport plans. It will also align with state, territory and other sector leaders’ sporting programs.

For any child, Saturday morning or even weekday sports can be the beginning of many dreams to go on to play at a high level.

The Australian Government is harnessing the power of sport and physical activity to build healthy, active, connected and thriving communities. As stated by the Government and AUSPLAY, the strategy has four priorities; Build a more active Australia, Achieve sport excellence, Safeguard the Integrity of Sport, and strengthen Australia’s sporting