Provincial relief fund targets community sports groups

Relief is on the way for community-based sports groups facing financial struggles.

BC’s $1.5-million Local Sport Relief Fund is meant to help local sport organizations facing extreme financial pressure and risk of insolvency due to the absence of registration fees, event revenues and sponsorships, according to a media release from BC Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture on September 19. The ministry is encouraging groups that have felt the effects of COVID-19 to apply for support. 

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"For many athletes and families, local sport organizations provide the important physical, mental and social benefits sports offer, which we need more than ever," stated minister of tourism, arts and culture Lisa Beare. "This funding will help local organizations so they can continue to support children, families and our communities with healthy activities."

The fund will help local sport clubs and organizations pay bills, society dues, salaries and/or maintenance fees while weathering the impacts of the pandemic, according to the release, and help them to plan for an eventual full return to sport. The application process is open until October 16, 2020.

"COVID-19 has had a significant financial impact on local non-profit sport organizations, resulting in a great number being at risk of disappearing," said Charlene Krepiakevich, CEO, viaSport. "As sport begins to safely return to communities, this funding will help maintain the viability of these organizations and retain the opportunities they have worked so hard to create for British Columbians."

Rural and remote communities, as well as under-represented populations, such as Indigenous peoples, girls and women, low-income individuals, persons with disabilities and newcomers, are disproportionately impacted by a reduction in physical activity opportunities as a result of COVID-19, stated the ministry, adding that the funding program seeks to ensure these opportunities remain in place by providing support to local sports organizations in rural, remote and urban communities throughout BC.

As of September 15, 67 sport-specific plans had been completed by provincial sport organizations, with 26 being updated for Phase 3 of returning to sport. This means more than 500,000 British Columbians are now able to return to sport.

Local sports organizations include baseball and soccer teams, gymnastics and swim teams.

This funding will ensure people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability are able to enjoy the physical and mental benefits sport offers.

As of September 2020, the province, through viaSport, provided $11 million in accelerated funding to provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations.

Provincial sport organizations in BC are also being supported through a $3.9-million investment from Canadian Heritage, which was recently increased from $3.4 million. The funding is part of the $72-million COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Sport Organizations and will support BC’s provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations, according to the release.

Funding will be distributed through viaSport.

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