Sports clubs and high energy costs: “Then the light goes out”

Status: 26/05/2022 10:07

Sports clubs also suffer from the high energy prices. Your income is small, but the cost is constantly rising. For some, it’s about existence – what should happen?

Mathias Grünewald walks through the Mombachs gymnastics club’s facility in 1861. He opens the front door to one of the two large halls. “Normally I would turn on the light here now, but I would rather not do it. We have to save where we can,” says the sports club’s chief financial officer. “The cost of electricity and especially gas is now abnormally high. It presents us with an existential challenge. If nothing happens, the light will soon be completely on us.”

MTV in Mainz has about 30 offers – from gymnastics to badminton to football. There is also a fitness center. All this uses a lot of energy. The recent massive rise in electricity and gas prices has hit MTV hard. The deficit in the club’s treasury currently runs up to around 45,000 euros – solely due to the sharp rise in energy prices.

“We do not have the money”

“We do not have the money,” Grünewald explains. “We can not get that through the membership fees. We have recently raised them by one euro each to eight euros for children and young people and 10.50 euros for adults.” A further increase can not be expected of the members in view of the already expensive cost of living. The district of Mombach is considered a working-class district of Mainz. Many who live here tend to have less money at their disposal.

In addition, the huge economic gap can not be closed with higher contributions, Grünewald counts. The association currently has just over 2,600 members. Before the pandemic, there were almost 3,000. “We are recovering from the Corona crisis. About 500 members had resigned during the pandemic and are now gradually returning. Right now it is impossible for us to increase contributions,” said Grünewald.

Mathias Grünewald from Mombacher Turnverein 1861: “We must save where we can.”

Photo: Axel John / SWR

Lots of savings

On his way through the club rooms, the finance director has meanwhile arrived in the kitchen. He points to empty refrigerators that have been unplugged. “We have concentrated the drinks on a few units. We also store some things in the basement. The most important thing is that we save energy.”

The board is also investigating other measures: Which other units can be switched off? How low can the heat be turned down in winter? “We also think about the air conditioners. However, many members say that training in the gym is very comfortable thanks to the cooling. If we turn it down, we lose the attractiveness.” According to Grünewald, one will probably decide on a daily basis, based on the number of visitors, what to do and how high.

hoping for help

After the more modern part, Grünewald now shows the older part of the facility. Another hall dates back to the 1980s. Especially the associated showers and toilets are in dilapidated condition. “We have a maintenance backlog. It has been built up over decades. Due to the high energy costs, a renovation is out of the question for the foreseeable future.”

MTV is now hoping for financial help from the city. Due to the huge blessing of money to Mainz through BioNTech, the club is also cautiously hopeful. Grünewald adds thoughtfully, though: “Mainz is in an extraordinary situation because of BioNTech. But what about the other clubs nationwide that are suffering from the same problems and whose municipalities are weak in money?”

A national problem

“The problems with the sharply rising energy costs are a nationwide challenge for the clubs. We hear that from all state sports associations,” sums up Torsten Burmester, chairman of the board of the German Olympic Sports Federation. Clubs have recently asked more and more energy consultants to somehow reduce costs. “Clubs that run pools are particularly affected. They are really energy-hungry and particularly expensive. An example: I just heard that MTV Cologne 1850 has to limit its offer of baby and children’s swimming – because of gas prices.”

Burmester draws a graphic with many red bars over the energy price loads. According to this, prices for sports clubs in Germany have risen by about 153 percent for liquefied gas over the past four years, by just over 156 percent for heating oil and by more than 77 percent for diesel. The additional costs for electricity of almost 24 percent are almost modest.

Requirement for additional emergency aid package

DOSB sees a bundle of measures to get the cost crisis under control. In the short term, save as much energy as possible. In the medium term, however, the Burmester sees politics as a duty. After the emergency aid package that is currently starting for broad sections of the population, Burmester is hoping for another aid package – this time also for sports clubs. The desire does not seem to be unfounded: due to the Corona crisis, the federal government wants to get the ailing popular sport up and running again in the short term with 500 million euros.

In the longer term, an additional 476 million euros will be provided in 2027 to renovate sports facilities and rebuild them to be climate neutral. However, the need is much greater. “We estimate the total investment need at 31 billion euros. And in the long term, of course, sports clubs must also be transformed to be climate-friendly. It is expensive, but there is no alternative, because sport also fulfills an important task for society as a whole.”

Sports clubs more than just training

Grünewald ends his tour and closes the door to the sports hall behind him. “We need to rebuild our club to save energy. But when I look at what photovoltaic systems alone are costing now.” Greenwald shakes his head. “Our economic situation threatens our very existence. But I remain optimistic. In the end, politicians also know that a sports club is much more than physical training. All classes of all ages gather here and form a community – and that is invaluable.”

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