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Stay alert when booking sports courses and summer camps

Beware of social media posts about football camps and summer camps

During school holidays – especially the long summer holidays, keeping children entertained and occupied can be a challenge. It is often not possible for parents to be away from work for the entire duration of the summer holidays, and so sports courses and summer camps are part and parcel of summer holidays.

Stadt Wien’s affordable summer camps and courses book out in minutes if not hours as soon as booking start. The same applies for sports and swimming courses. There are of course other private providers, who offer a wide range of activities, both sporting and otherwise, but these tend to be more expensive that the subsidised offering. Large employers may even subsidise or organise places at such camps for their employee’s children.

Unscrupulous providers can easily set up websites that sound wonderful, but in fact are scams. Once they have your money they might disappear off the face of the earth. Others will request you to WhatsApp a phone number. Do a Google search for the mobile number. Beware of a website and then contact with a free webmail provider. Check that the mail address used also appears on the website.

If you are booking yourself, here are a number of tips and things to look out for.

Do your due diligence

  • Is the sports course organised in association with a sports club? Many sports clubs run such courses, or use facilities of a club to hold a course. Check out the partner club (Verein). Check that it has a ZVR number (the Zentrales Vereinsregister is a police-held register).
  • For sports courses during term-time, there might be a free Schnupperstunde (trial session). However, after that you usually sign up for a block of ten units. These blocks are, as a rule, non-refundable.
  • Payment for sports courses is invariably by bank transfer into a club account, not a private account. Many clubs press a paying-in slip into your hand when you provide contact details and fill in a form. Very few will have payment through their website, using Klarna or by credit card.
  • Most sports clubs do not have impressive sponsors. Typical sponsors are the cafe/bar near their ground, or a small firm that has a pitch-side hoardings, or a company that a club member works for.
  • Beware of glossy looking websites with sparkling facilities, brand new equipment and a wide range of online payment options. The reality is far from it.
  • Check whether the website has a “legal notice” or “Impressum” page. This is a legal requirement. It must provide you with transparent details about the organiser. Typically this will be a club or Verein, its officers, the address and number from the Vereinsregister.
plain, ultimate game, camp

More things to watch out for…

  • Check whether a sports club itself organises the course or camp, or someone connected with a sports club. Beware of adverts posted on behalf of other people on social media. Ask to see a club website, and something that confirms that the course is happening.
  • Some courses might be offered in English, but are the exception rather than the rule. They may be fully booked long in advance.
  • Beware of posts about being able to get extra slots for courses at sports centres or pitches – this rarely happens, especially not at short notice.
  • Most sport clubs will have a list of courses/camps published for the entire year – e.g. for the the holiday week in February, the entire summer holidays and also the autumn holiday week. This is often needed to ensure they receive grants or subsidies. Spontaneous courses announced a couple of weeks before the next holidays are practically non-existent.
  • Beware of posts that made only very shortly before the course’s start date – especially ones that offer session-by-session “pay as you play” or not having to commit to a number of weeks. If anything clubs need a steady attendance for the courses to work well.
  • Consider whether the suggested programme is realistic for the age and ability of your child. If there is a wide target age group, ask how activities are split into groups, about playing and break times. Ask about how many trainers and coaches will be with the group and about group size.
  • Beware of suspiciously good photos, especially if they are of kids in recognisable Premier League kits. We have seen these images “borrowed” from professional club websites.
  • If you have any doubts, contact the owner of the sports facility where the course will be held and check that there is a booking by the course provider. We did this last year in a previous case and the facility manager had no knowledge of the provider.

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mike

By Michael Bailey

Naturalised Austrian born in SW England, studied in Scotland and living in Austria since 2000.

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