Sporting world is changing

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By SPORT CENTRAL STEERING GROUP CHAIRMAN TONY LEPPER
One of the things I look forward to most about the holiday period is the chance to get “active” with family and friends.

These days, mountain biking and bowls are my sports of choice, but any excuse to do things outdoors in Central Otago can and should be taken advantage of.

It is always a pleasure to show others how easy it is to do things when you do not live within the confines of a city. The great outdoors is at our back door and if you are a member of a club (for example, Clyde Bowling Club, of which I am a member) everyone knows you and it is a comfortable environment to be a part of.

Both my wife, Bernie, and I have raced bikes for many years. This time of year was always packed full of events that challenged our competitive natures and honed our fitness for longer events that came along later in the year.

In the past, many of these holiday races were staged by local community organisations as fundraisers for their own activities. No-one minded the entry fee, as it went to a good cause. We always enjoyed the races put on by the Cromwell promotions group, because the entry fee was minimal, as they were designed to attract visitors rather than make money.

Sadly many of these events have disappeared from the holiday sporting calendar. Compliance costs and the level of sophistication required to host a successful event have driven deserving local community groups out of this once popular fundraising market.

The gap, of course, has been filled, largely by fully professional event organisers. The profits from this growing “Pay to Play” environment now ends up with individuals rather than with community groups.

The sporting world as I knew it is changing. Clubs and the voluntary input required to make them work, the tie of regular competitive sport, and the traditional provider of sporting opportunities are all coming under siege from less organised forms of recreation.

It is so much easier to post on Facebook that I am going for a ride, grab the bike, head off and see who turns up.

Fun, not competition, seems to be where many are heading. Clubs which do not adapt to this new environment and the needs of a new group of participants will struggle to survive.

– Tony Lepper is an avid sportsman, a board member of Bowls New Zealand and chairman of the Sports Central steering group.