Mark Davidson with Andy Smith of Subsea Supplies Ltd at sponsorship launch at Aberdeen Sports Village (photo via Press and Journal Karen Flannery)
Aberdeen AAC won our Track and Field Club of the Year title in 2022 and the Janice Eaglesham Para Development Club of the Year award. This year, they are short-listed for Impact Club of the Year and again for the Para Club of the Year accolade.
The cost of living crisis, however, is hitting clubs like Aberdeen AAC hard as they seek to find ways to combat financial challenges and rising costs while still delivering on a number of projects.
President Mark Davidson has confirmed a sponsorship agreement will bolster the club’s indoor winter meetings – which attract athletes from across Scotland – and spoke to the Press and Journal about trying to balance the books . . .
Aberdeen AAC have been boosted by sponsorship from Subsea Supplies Ltd. – a cash boost which will allow the club to once again stage their popular series of winter indoor meetings.
The four meets, which are held from December to March, offer competitive athletics opportunities for not just Aberdeen AAC members, but athletes from all over the north and across Scotland.
President Mark Davidson has revealed securing a sponsor for the events, in what is a difficult financial climate for clubs, has also helped ensure the future of other initiatives like their weekly free kids’ athletics sessions in some of the Granite City’s most-deprived areas.
‘Like everybody else, the club is struggling with the cost of living crisis just now, and our costs have gone up through the roof with everything we’re doing to keep the club operational,’ said Mark.
‘One of the things the club want to do is keep sport accessible for everyone. A lot of the stuff we do in the community is geared at making sure under-represented groups get to take part.
‘The sponsor coming in and helping us with the (winter) meetings keeps that going.’
Photo by Bobby Gavin
Andy Smith of Subsea Supplies said: ‘I know the effort Mark has to put in, personally, to keep this all going, and I’m in the fortunate position where I can help out.
‘I’ve never taken part in athletics, but I’m a sports fan and I know how much it means to Mark.’
Aberdeen AAC president for close to 10 years, Mark revealed the increasing financial challenge of keeping up club efforts to make athletics accessible to participants from all backgrounds.
AAAC hope to expand from four free kids athletics sessions per week, held in Garthdee, Northfield and at ASV, to ‘six or seven’, also covering Kincorth and Torry, from next year.
But funding these outreach sessions, including the paid officers and coaches who organise them, is a costly exercise.
A £27,000 grant from the Robertson Trust will fund part of those costs over the next four years.
However, AAAC also want the kids from the sessions to be able to become full club members, regardless of their circumstances.
And this means also providing discounted memberships, and highly-subsidised, or even free bus travel to competitions for their athletes.
These costs borne by the club mean the drive to get grants and sponsors like Subsea Supplies on board is a full-time effort at AAAC, Mark explained, with annual fees from members only covering around 25% of the club’s total annual expenditure.
Aberdeen AAC celebrate our 2022 Track and Field Club of the Year Award with Eoghan MacNamara and Fiona Davidson receiving from Nick Percy (photo by Bobby Gavin)
‘Our biggest cost which has gone up is probably our buses. It’s great we have this facility here and can put on competitions here – and the club’s probably put on more competitions than any other club in Scotland through the year.
‘But, while we’ve got this, we probably spend just as many weekends away from here competing right across the country.
‘We need to heavily subsidise the buses to make sure everybody can get there. Our bus hires in the past 12 months have probably been up at £7000.
‘We take in a small bus fare from those who can afford it, but some of the athletes will travel free, depending on their background.’
Despite the club’s best efforts to make athletics affordable for all, Mark attributes AAAC’s total membership remaining below pre-Covid levels to the burden of families from the increased cost of living.
This is despite membership fees for their approximately 350 members being kept as low as possible across the board, he added.
Fortunately, thus far, AAAC have not had to stop any part of their operation, as they open athletics opportunities up and support as many people as possible – whether it’s youngsters from the cities most deprived areas or Olympians like 400m sprinter Zoey Clark.
Mark added: ‘I wouldn’t want to stop anything that’s the thing, because what’s a priority and what isn’t?
‘While we do deliver the free sessions, there is a cost associated for the club, so it would be the simple thing to stop that. But I don’t think that would be fair on those kids from under-represented areas.
‘We have to weigh up what’s important for the club. We have the Zoey Clarks and the next wave of those athletes. We can’t just neglect them – they’ve been in the club seven, eight, nine years or longer some of them.
‘We have to make sure there’s the support for them and where they need to get to in the sport.’
Zoey Clark helps present medals at our 4J Age Group Champs in Aberdeen in August (photo by Bobby Gavin)