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Sport, Fitness and Recreation

Overview

This page provides high-level information on the Sport, Fitness and Recreation Activities industry.

The Sport, Fitness and Recreation landscape is complex, and comprises of four main industry sectors:

  • Aquatic and Community Recreation
  • Fitness
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Sport.

The Sport, Fitness and Recreation sector is extremely popular with Australian consumers and caters to a range of demographics and tastes. Consumers want services that are targeted to their specific needs, which has led to an increased range of activities on offer in gyms and fitness facilities. This has followed a worldwide trend towards personalised fitness services.

The impact of the Sport, Fitness and Recreation industry extends beyond economic benefits, with the industry and its sub-sectors providing significant value and contribution to Australian society through preventative health, mental health benefits, increased productivity, decreased worker absenteeism, decreased compensation claims and injuries. This is recognised through significant investment by federal and state governments in a range of sport and physical activity initiatives.

In addition to education and health benefits, sport, fitness and recreation activities bring communities together by providing a positive environment for people to connect and share a common focus. Sporting and fitness activities can provide a platform for people to engage and can promote awareness of broader community issues. Involvement is widespread, with approximately 1.5 million coaches, instructors and teachers across Australia.

Nationally recognised training for Sport, Fitness and Recreation occupations is delivered under the SIS – Sport, Fitness and Recreation Training Package

For more information and data specific to Aquatic and Community Recreation, Fitness, Outdoor Recreation and Sport, please visit the respective pages.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Industry cluster snapshot

Employment and training snapshot

The employment level in the Sports and Recreation Activities (excluding Horse and Dog Racing Activities) industry more than doubled between 2001 and 2019, but declined by 50% from 135,600 in 2019 to 67,800 in 2020, a figure not seen since the early 2000’s. This level has increased by 87% in 2021 up to 126,500, however it is projected to decline to 117,200 by 2025.

There were close to 113,550 program enrolments in the Sport, Fitness and Recreation Training Package during 2020, the level remaining steady since 2019 after an increase from approximately 102,640 in 2018. In addition, program completions have been trending upwards since the trough of around 34,620 in 2017, with just under 38,600 completions in 2020.

Between 2016 and 2020 the proportion of subject level enrolments in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program has been relatively steady, between 87% and 90%.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Sport and Recreation IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, the following form the top priority skills required across the industry:

  • Teamwork and communication
  • Problem solving
  • Self-management
  • Technical/job-specific skills.

Additionally, other skills and knowledge gaps identified included Online and social media, Marketing, Initiative and enterprise (i.e. small business management) and Sports Administration.

The following generic skills were also identified as highest priority for the Sport and Recreation industry:

  • Customer Service/Marketing
  • Communication/Virtual collaboration/Social intelligence
  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/System thinking/Solving problems
  • Managerial/Leadership

The importance of communication skills is supported by findings from the job vacancy data, in which communication was identified as the most in demand advertised generic skill in the Sports and Recreation Activities industry, followed by energetic, organisational skills, planning and detail orientated.

According to job vacancy data the most advertised occupations were for Fitness Instructors, followed by Swimming Coach or Instructor, and Other Sports Coach or Instructor, with top two employers identified as YMCA and Anytime Fitness.

The Sport and Recreation industry is made up of many different sectors, and as identified in a report by Christine May, it is an industry strongly influenced by other industries such as government, community, education, health, retail, media and broadcast, and tourism and entertainment. This report found that community sport and recreation clubs play a pivotal role in making physical activity opportunities accessible to all Australians. This message is reflected at a state and territory level as well. For example, the Game On framework developed by the South Australian government aims to reverse poor levels of physical activity and increase movement opportunities through better coordination between whole-of-government, and sectors that are positioned to promote physical activity.

The Ausplay report on volunteering in sport found 40% of adults and 69% of children participate in organised sport, while an additional 3.1 million Australians aged over 15 take on non-playing roles such as coach, official, administrator or team manager. Community organised sporting activities were shut down due to government COVID-19 restrictions, but by March 2021 80% of adults and children who played organised sport before restrictions were put in place had returned to at least one of their sports by March 2021. Of those who hadn’t, 38% of adults cited their main reason for not returning was due to concerns about the pandemic.

COVID-19 impact

The short-term impact of COVID-19 on the Sport and Recreation industry has been significant, with many businesses and organisations in the industry having to follow mandated closure orders to minimise the spread of the virus. Across many parts of Australia these organisations have now re-opened, however, they are operating in a very different environment guided by new regulations and restrictions. The road to recovery for this industry has been guided nationally by the release of the National Principles for the Resumption of Sport and Recreation Activities, a set of principles released by the National Cabinet which were developed in conjunction with the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport), and principles which align with the AIS’s own release, the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport. These principles provide a guide for the re-introduction of sport and recreation activities, including the safe return of training and competition activities. Although this release provides a set of national principles, each state and territory may encounter different levels of restrictions depending on the incidence of COVID-19 in their community.

Please see relevant research section below for links to some state-based and other nationally based guidelines and return to sport initiatives.

The long-term consequences of COVID-19 on the Sport and Recreation industry, and the economy overall, are yet to be fully realised, however, research conducted by Fitness Australia provides a snapshot of some of the immediate effects on the industry. The COVID-19 Fitness Industry Impact Report highlights the following in an analysis of exercise professionals and sole traders:

  • 81% has lost their job or main source of income
  • 71% had not had a single client since gyms closed on 23 March 2020
  • 44% of respondents has lost more than 61% of their income
  • 90% are continuing to pay up to $5,000 per month for business expenses despite not operating
  • Less than 10% of clients had transitioned to virtual platforms or one-on-one training.

The same report also identified the following trends among boutique fitness businesses and multi-service facilities:

  • All businesses have had to stand down employees with less than 10% of staff still working
  • 70% of businesses cited a 100% decline in memberships
  • 24% of businesses reported a 61% decline in memberships due to cancellations or suspensions
  • Revenue was down 100% for 50% of gym owners
  • Gym have only been able to generate less than 10% of their usual income through virtual or outdoor one-on-one training.

 

The Fitness Australia report Doors shut and with no ‘take away’ for 30% of days since March 2020 reveals while many fitness businesses and operators have provided live-stream classes or online workouts during the lockdowns, many of these services have been offered to members free of charge just to keep them engaged in their exercise habits. In the Aquatics industry, many swim teachers sought alternative employment in other sectors during COVID as pools were closed and many were ineligible for JobKeeper. This has led to average waiting lists for swim lessons 20% higher than they were pre-COVID, and many swim schools not able to cater for their existing customer base.

Daily exercise was one of only four endorsed reasons to leave home during COVID-19 lockdowns, and data shows women have been consistent in becoming more active on purpose across both waves of the pandemic. Sport Australia’s report reveals data collected between April and September 2020 show increases in high frequency walking for women, when compared with the equivalent periods in 2019. Females have been consistent in becoming more active on purpose across both waves of the pandemic, with women reportedly more likely than men to participate in the types of physical activity, such as walking for daily exercise, which were still possible during periods of lockdown. Conversely, males play more organised sport, which was no longer allowed throughout 2020.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and Skills Forecast

 

Relevant research

AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport – Australian Institute of Sport

AusPlay Focus: Volunteering in sport – Sport Australia

Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Principles for the Resumption of Sport and Recreation Activities – Australian Government Department of Health

COVID Safe Workplace Guidelines: Sport and Recreation Industry – Department of Justice Tasmania, WorkSafe Tasmania

COVID-19 Coronavirus: Sport and Recreation: COVID Safety Plan and Guidelines for Sport and Recreation Venues – Western Australia Government

COVID-19 Fitness Industry Impact Report – Fitness Australia

COVID-19 Resources: Return to Sport – Sport SA

COVID-19 Return to Sport Toolkit – Sport Australia

Doors shut and with no ‘take away’ for 30% of days since March 2020 - Barrie Elvish

Drastic shortage of swim teachers puts young Australians at risk - Australasian Leisure Management

Game On: Getting South Australia Moving – Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing

Ongoing impact of COVID-19 on sport and physical activity participation: June 2021 update – Sport Australia

Return to Play: Guide for Queensland Sport, Recreation and Fitness Industries – Queensland Government

Return to Sport and Recreation – Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing

Structure of Australian Sport – Christine May

 

Government departments and agencies

Arts Sport and Leisure (Northern Territory)

Government of South Australia Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing

NSW Office of Sport

Recreation, Sport and Arts (Queensland)

Communities, Sport and Recreation (Tasmania)

Sport and Recreation (ACT Government)

Sport and Recreation (Victoria)

Sport and Recreation (Western Australia)

SportAus

 

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Active Queenslanders Industry Alliance

Aquatic and Recreation Institute (ARI)

Australian Adventure Activity Standards

Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER)

Australian Fitness Network

Australian Strength and Conditioning Association (ASCA)

Australian Swim Coach and Teachers Association

AUSactive

AUSTSWIM

Clearinghouse for Sport

Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports

Community Sport Australia

Exercise and Sports Science Australia

Outdoor Education Australia

Outdoors NSW & ACT

Outdoors SA

Parks and Leisure Australia

Physical Activity Australia

QSport

Recreation South Australia

Royal Life Saving Australia

Sport NSW

Sport SA

Swim Australia

Swimming Australia

SportWest

 

Employee associations

Australian Services Union

Australian Workers Union

Health Services Union

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industries, employment projections to May 2025
    • 910 Sports and Recreation Activities, nfd
    • 911 Sports and Physical Recreation Activities
    • 913 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industries, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter
    • 910 Sports and Recreation Activities, nfd
    • 911 Sports and Physical Recreation Activities
    • 913 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection and Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package:

  • SIS Sport, Fitness and Recreation Training Package.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills/Occupations
    • Community and Personal Service Workers
    • Managers
    • Clerical and Administrative Workers
    • 9111 Health and Fitness Centres and Gymnasia Operation 
    • 9112 Sport and Physical Recreation Clubs and Sports Professionals 
    • 9113 Sports and Physical Recreation Venues, Grounds and Facilities Operation 
    • 9114 Sport and Physical Recreation Administrative Service 
    • 9131 Amusement Parks and Centres Operation 
    • 9139 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities n.e.c.
  • Employers
    • 452111 Fitness Instructor
    • 452315 Swimming Coach or Instructor 
    • 452317 Other Sports Coach or Instructor
    • 541211 Information Officer 
    • 131112 Sales and Marketing Manager
    • 9111 Health and Fitness Centres and Gymnasia Operation 
    • 9112 Sport and Physical Recreation Clubs and Sports Professionals 
    • 9113 Sports and Physical Recreation Venues, Grounds and Facilities Operation 
    • 9114 Sport and Physical Recreation Administrative Service 
    • 9131 Amusement Parks and Centres Operation 
    • 9139 Amusement and Other Recreation Activities n.e.c.
Updated: 21 Jan 2022
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