How can government provide support to a sector that is already under-resourced and funded?

Declining volunteers in Australian community sport due to COVID-19: some solutions


Structure as follows:



• COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Australian sport, no less community sport.

• Volunteers are traditionally older Australians. Due to COVID, some older Australians have, for example, been reminded how nice it has been to have more time with family.

• Ageing Australians are also more impacted by the virus (e.g. higher death rates) and less likely to take risks.

• In an already under-resourced area, the casual workforce was the first thing cut by sporting organisations to save money.

• These volunteers have now moved into other sectors or simply stopped working

• Community sport will now have more policies around operations due to the virus.

• Training and compliance for these policies will be more onerous

• Volunteers will need to undertake the required training but are unlikely to want to.


• The purpose of this paper is to offer solutions for declining volunteer levels in community sport in Australia.

• What do sport administrators need to do?

• What impact will there be on the future of sport governance?

• How can government provide support to a sector that is already under-resourced and funded?

• Does sport need to look outside its own ‘backyard’ and form partnerships to access volunteers?

• Is money or non-cash benefits a way to promote volunteers back?

• What role does digital play?

• How can we reduce face-to-face operations with online digital solutions?


• Critical Realism (CR) is a branch of philosophy that distinguishes between the ‘real’ world and the ‘observable’ world. The ‘real’ cannot be observed and exists independent from human perceptions, theories, and constructions. The world as we know and understand it is constructed from our perspectives and experiences, through what is ‘observable’. Thus, according to critical realists, un observable structures cause observable events and the social world can be understood only if people understand the structures that generate events.

• Demonstrate the theoretical and practical application of CR as a new methodological perspective in research on sport volunteering.

• To date, much of sport volunteering research has been underpinned by a polarity of positivist and interpretivist methodologies which has contributed to narrow ontological perspectives of the sport volunteering phenomenon.

• What solutions can be offered and enhanced through a CR lens?


The method will:

• Review literature that discusses volunteer issues as a result of COVID-19

• Examine current literature (e.g. since advent of COVID-19)

• Look at global situation as well as Australian situation

• Identify what has happened

• Source evidence/statistics for volunteer drop

• Address all questions (and more) in Objective section above

• Consider the volunteer situation through the lens of CR


Provide the detail as per the seven points in the METHOD section above


• Solutions from a critical realist perspective

• One example: remove need for formal registrations and allow people to just turn up on the day, play, and leave.

• Provide details of OTHER solutions that emerge from the literature review

• CR provides a new perspective of control in this context.

• The research complements the CR philosophy


• There are a range of solutions

• Consider the likely efficacy of the solutions

• Describe how paper contributes to the literature on sport volunteerism by offering a more extensive discussion of CR as a new methodological perspective worthy of further application across a range of issues related to sport volunteerism.


• Start monitoring volunteering levels now

• Commence implementation of solutions from CR perspective

• Monitor change in levels as they improve or don’t improve

• Can CR play a role in improving the situation?