Build it and they will come? An analysis of the impact of the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships in Scarborough, Western Australia on sport development (a research summary*)
It is commonly believed that major sporting events should provide ongoing benefits, including increased participation in the sport and physical activity in general. This is becoming an increasingly important aspect of hosting a major sporting event and it is commonly recommended that event organisers consider how a major event can benefit the development of the sport. In terms of providing ongoing legacies, it is not a case of “build it [an event] and they [legacies] will come”; a conscious, sustained effort is required in order to create a legacy that will benefit sport.
The Australian Surf Life Saving Championships (Aussies) were held in Kurrawa, Queensland from 1995 – 2006. From 2007 – 2009, the event was held in Scarborough, Western Australia. This provides an opportunity to study the interactions between an event and sport in terms of legacy.
The aims of the study are to:
1. examine measures of sport development (such as player development, coaching and officiating & promotion) in Western Australia from 1990-2009
2. determine if the these measures vary with the location of Aussies
A preliminary study for this research project was conducted in March 2008 (just prior to the 2008 Aussies). The preliminary study was conducted to ensure that the right research methods were being used. The preliminary study consisted of: (1) in depth interviews and (2) an online survey.
In depth interviews
Five key stakeholders of surf lifesaving in Western Australia were interviewed. To maintain anonymity, the names and positions of these participants have been withheld. Each participant was asked about what benefits they had noticed in Western Australia as a result of hosting Aussies, what negatives they had noticed and what they thought could be done to leverage the event to create improvements in sport development (membership, coaching, officiating, administration).
The responses provide preliminary insights into why recent changes in surf lifesaving in Western Australia may have happened. For example, a number of interviews mentioned in an increase in membership in WA, which was confirmed through examination of SLSWA’s annual reports. .However, the main trends identified from the interviews suggest that the 2007 Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships:
– led to increased publicity and greater community awareness
– may have contributed to increased membership
– provided members with greater competitive opportunities and better performances
– strengthened relationships with external partners such as state government, local government, sponsors and community groups
– could have provided better opportunities for locally based staff and officials (which may occur in subsequent events)
The online surveys were a chance to ask similar, less detailed questions to a broader audience. When examining these responses there was a high level of agreement from the survey respondents that benefits for the venues that hosted Aussies were reputation and publicity, funding, levels of interest and increased competitiveness.
Where to from here?
The preliminary study has provided insight and some new research directions for the main study. I will be looking at Annual Reports from Surf Life Saving Western Australia, conducting further in-depth interviews and conducting on-beach surveys in metropolitan surf clubs in WA (in March 2010). The results from these next stages of the research will inform how event location impacts sport development. The final research project (PhD) will be completed in December 2010.
* For the purpose of these plain English results, supporting references have been removed.