Football and netball clubs rank among the top 50 per cent of businesses in many Wimmera and Mallee towns and inject more than $18 million into the region's economy, a recent forum heard.
Protecting clubs so that they survive the COVID-19 lockdown - which could mean making some tough decisions in the short-term - was put on the table as part of discussions at a virtual forum held in May.
Wimmera and Horsham and District league football and netball clubs have been encouraged to work on strategies that not only help them survive the COVID-19 slowdown, but emerge stronger and better positioned for a sustainable and viable future.
They took part in the virtual forum, hosted by the Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly and Wimmera Development Association, where the importance of sustainable community sports clubs to the region was discussed.
The event was hosted by Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly and Wimmera Development Association.
Wayne Street, of Street Ryan and Associates, presented costing benchmark figures for football and netball club to the gathering.
He included statistics that showed football and netball clubs rank among the top 40 to 50 per cent of businesses in many of the towns of the Wimmera and Southern Mallee and contribute more than $18 million to the region.
Wimmera Development Association spoke with experienced community sports leader Peter Myers to gain his insight on how club boards and committees could navigate out of the COVID-19 shutdown.
Mr Myers spent seven years on the board of the Northern Football Netball League and now serves as treasurer of the Kew Golf Club, which ranks among the top 100 courses in the country.
"The focus should be on protecting the club so that it does survive at the end of this - and that may mean making some fairly difficult decisions in the short-term, Mr Myers said.
"That's so when things do return to normality, the club is in a strong position to go forward.
"Gone are the days where you just go day-by-day or season-by-season. You have to have a long-term purpose for the club."
Mr Myers said boards and committees should keep the sustainability of the club in mind when making any short-term decisions.
"I think it's important that clubs put a lot of effort into strategic planning," he said.
"First we want to get through this virus period, but we also want to make sure we're continuing in accordance with our long-term plan."
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said a vibrant sporting community helped make the region a great place to live.
"We want to make sure that the boards and committees have the support that they need to have a secure financial future" Mr Sounness said.
Wimmera Development Association has utilised Peter Myers' advice to develop a "Guide for Committees" that sporting clubs can use to commence a club "health check" to help ensure their viability into the future.
Wimmera Development Association, working in partnership with the Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly, will contact football and netball clubs to provide them with the guide and to discuss what extra support or assistance community sports clubs might need to ensure viability and sustainability.