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Sportville Model Review

Sportville Model Review

Since the mid 1990s, the term ‘sportville’ has been used to refer to a variety of partnership arrangements entered into by sports clubs. The idea of traditional single-purpose sports clubs forming collectives is not new. But in recent times there has been a growing interest in the benefits of consolidating resources, and a desire to know “what works and what doesn’t.”


In response to this interest among sports clubs, national and regional sports organisations, and potential investors like councils and community trusts, in 2008 Sport NZ commissioned a report from Peter Burley, Director of Sport Guidance.

In his report Burley examines how eight ‘sportville’ projects had evolved and developed, and what lessons could be learned.

Click here to read or download “Sport Partnership Projects: a review of eight high-profile sport club partnerships (PDF, 1.21 Mb)” (PDF 1.2 MB).

For those of you looking for a brief introduction, read on.

Case studies

Peter Burley’s report looks at a representative cross section of sport club partnerships, which includes:

  • College Rifles Rugby Club
  • Eskview Sports Association
  • Greytown Community Sport & Leisure Society
  • Lynfield Cultural Recreation Club
  • Moutere Hills Community Centre & Sports Complex
  • Papamoa Sport & Recreation Club
  • Sharks Sports Trust
  • Te Puru Community Charitable Trust

He first acknowledges that there is no single model for ‘sportville’ initiatives, and favours the term ‘sport club partnerships’ because it allows for greater variety. 

Each of the eight case studies reveals different motivations and responses, resulting in different legal structures and management models. There is no one right way to do it.

And not all ‘sportville’ ventures prosper. Among the eight case studies, six are regarded as being successful, one is said to be struggling, and one is judged to have failed. Burley looks at each of the eight partnerships, noting their differences, but searching too for commonalities.

Is there a pattern?

In tracing the evolution and development of the eight sport club partnerships, Burley looks at:

  • the impetus for change (forming)
  • the early adjustments in a new relationship (storming)
  • the settling of behaviour (norming)
  • the realisation of the desired gains (performing)
  • and lastly, because not every venture is successful,
  • the collapse of a joint venture (deforming).

For each of these stages in what he calls ‘the journey’, Burley teases out key lessons. And these critical success factors will interest sports organisations contemplating change, as well as investors looking for more effective ways to support community sport.

Of particular interest are the possible catalysts for change. Why do traditional single-purpose sports clubs contemplate radical change? Burley suggests there are several reasons:

  • the struggle to survive as single-purpose organisations
  • the desire for better and more professional sports delivery
  • the appeal of a more ‘family-friendly’ environment
  • the added attractions of a multi-sport organisation
  • the prospect of a new building development

Any one of these forces may stimulate the appetite for change, but the last reason mentioned often has the power to galvanise decision-makers so that they move past just ‘thinking about it’.

Critical success factors

In summary, Burley notes the following key essentials:

  • Good governance
    Sports club partnerships are complex arrangements that must satisfy multiple stakeholders. They require enlightened leadership and a clear separation of governance and sport delivery functions.
  • Clarity of purpose
    The value proposition must be clear, simple, and compelling. The benefits of the partnership must be articulated in ways that everyone can understand.
  • Formal amalgamations are not always necessary
    A new entity need not replace existing clubs but instead can umbrella constituent members.
  • Clustering of resources
    The close physical proximity of facilities (fields, courts, changing rooms, café etc) is important in the same way the kitchen is central to a home.
  • Staged progression
    Building trust is essential as organisations feel their way toward new relationshipS. The influence of a respected “project champion” is critical, even where there are willing parties and conditions are favourable.
  • Council support
    Partnerships appear to have a greater chance of success if local authorities have supportive policies and are prepared to invest.

Positive results

Burley finds that in the majority of cases, sports club partnerships are successful. He documents improvements in:

  • growth – in playing numbers and in the range of activities on offer
  • money – in increased access to grant funding but also in improved accountabilities and financial management
  • morale – as participants understand the new possibilities on offer
  • facilities – as the critical mass of multiple users makes investment attractive

What about the evidence?

The report offers valuable insight as it looks at a cross section of sports club partnerships – some of them now well established and others getting under way, and some more successful than others.

While there are limitations to the statistical information presented throughout the report, it is possible to see evidence of progress. The ‘numbers’ make interesting reading but so do the comments from individuals who have been involved in these ground-breaking projects.

The last word

The last word belongs to Peter Burley:

“Six of the eight are succeeding while one is defunct and the other has been struggling. Those that are successful are generally very successful. They display healthy financial positions, and are able to demonstrate growth in sport participation by the constituent clubs that formed them. They are able to show much more than this. Many of the successful clubs also provide a range of programmes that they are now able to support as a result of the increased human capital and infrastructure they created out of forming collectives.”

For sports leaders, council politicians and officers, and investor organisations alike, the report is a valuable resource.


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