Grass roots

With a new sea­son upon us, Rug­by­World brings you an abun­dance of ad­vice to make your club T he best it can be. Fr om f acilit ies t o f und­ing and par t ic­i­pat ion t o pit ches, we have you cov­ered

Rugby World - - CONTENTS -

Rugby’s TesT stars and pro­fes­sional com­pe­ti­tions may be the things that gar­ner most at­ten­tion, but with­out the army of play­ers and vol­un­teers at am­a­teur level the grass-roots game would cease to ex­ist.

With more de­mands on peo­ple’s time and money, we recog­nise that rugby clubs are cur­rently fac­ing a lot of chal­lenges, so we have talked to ex­perts in the field to pro­vide an­swers to the big ques­tions we think will help you to im­prove your club. As Ryan Jones, the for­mer Wales cap­tain and now the WRU Head of Par­tic­i­pa­tion, says: “Rugby re­ally can be all things to all peo­ple and it is our mis­sion to show you how.”

Good luck for the com­ing sea­son!

What fund­ing is avail­able to help de­velop club fa­cil­i­ties?

Unions of­fer grants big and small for im­prove­ment work, although the club usu­ally needs to match the sum pro­vided, ie if you’re given a grant of £10,000, you also need to source or raise £10,000 for the project.

Whether it’s a club­house build or ma­jor re­fur­bish­ments, flood­lights in­stal­la­tion or main­te­nance work, it’s well worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing what grants you can ap­ply for, both through your national union and sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions – Sport Wales of­fers fund­ing of up to £1,500 to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion and/or im­prove stan­dards through its Com­mu­nity Chest pro­gramme, for in­stance – as well as lo­cal coun­cils and sport­ing bod­ies. It may in­volve a fair bit of pa­per­work but if you re­ceive the grant it will be worth it.

Here are a cou­ple of ex­am­ples of grants given at dif­fer­ent ends of the spec­trum. Ply­mouth Ar­gaum re­ceived a Help­ing Hand grant (these range from £500-1,500) from the RFU to re­place dam­aged shower fit­tings with im­proved prod­ucts that were also more fi­nan­cially and en­vi­ron­men­tally ef­fi­cient.

In Wales, Bryn­coch se­cured a £25,000 WRU Fa­cil­i­ties Grant and £50,000 from the WREN Land­fill scheme to re­fur­bish and re­con­fig­ure its club­house. The club’s goal is to pro­vide a more wel­com­ing and vi­brant at­mos­phere.

This is some­thing Steve Grainger, the RFU Rugby De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor, en­cour­ages clubs to do. He’s not sug­gest­ing do­ing away with club­house tra­di­tions, but a few mod­ern touches can make a big dif­fer­ence. “One of the things we did in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup was in­vest in what we call so­cial sta­tus projects,” he says. “We’d typ­i­cally give a grant of around £10,000 to a club and they matched it, so cre­ated a £20-25,000 project.

“Some clubs ren­o­vated the bar area or con­structed kitchens. Oth­ers did very sim­ple things like rip the car­pet up and put lam­i­nate floor­ing down, or take the 20-year-old cur­tains down and put some nice new blinds up. They took down some of the black-and-white pho­to­graphs and put some mod­ern images up.

“It’s creat­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that peo­ple who aren’t tra­di­tion­ally from rugby know and un­der­stand, so they are happy to be there. And that put rev­enue through the ceil­ing for some clubs.”

Spend­ing money in the short term can make money in the long term in terms of in­creased mem­ber­ship and higher bar tak­ings, so think about what changes – whether mi­nor or ma­jor – would benefit your club.

“It’s creat­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that peo­ple who aren’t tra­di­tion­ally from rugby know and un­der­stand”

This is less about fa­cil­i­ties and more about the rugby ex­per­tise your club can of­fer, but it’s worth not­ing that Scot­tish Rugby’s coach­ing cour­ses are of­ten sub­sidised by sportscot­land. Welsh clubs also re­ceive ‘points’ for ev­ery qual­i­fied coach they have and they count to­wards the fund­ing pro­vided by the WRU at the end of a sea­son, so if a club do pay for a mem­ber to un­der­take a coach­ing course, they could ef­fec­tively be re­im­bursed down the line.

Can our club claim tax re­lief?

The Com­mu­nity Am­a­teur Sports Club (CASC) scheme en­ables clubs to get tax re­lief on in­come, gains and prof­its, busi­ness rates re­lief and Gift Aid re­pay­ments on do­na­tions – but you need to check your club is el­i­gi­ble.

If you have a large play­ing mem­ber­ship and your rev­enue mainly

comes from the sport­ing side, you should fit the bill.

If you are more re­liant on other rev­enue streams

– hir­ing out the club­house for events, for ex­am­ple

– the scheme won’t be ap­pro­pri­ate.

“It’s in­tended to give tax re­lief on the sport el­e­ment, not on food, bev­er­age and that sort of stuff,” ex­plains Grainger. “If the rev­enue you’re get­ting di­rectly from play­ing sport be­comes sec­ondary to the rev­enue you’re get­ting from the bar and cater­ing and let­ting it out, it’s not go­ing to be suit­able. You won’t find many, if any, golf clubs that are CASCs be­cause of­ten the rev­enue is com­ing very much from off-field.”

Search ‘CASC’ on gov.uk to find out if you’re el­i­gi­ble and how to reg­is­ter.

What other rev­enue streams are there?

There are a plethora of op­tions and it de­pends on the ul­ti­mate goal of your club and the fa­cil­i­ties you have on of­fer. If you’re based in a highly pop­u­lated area with a large club­house, com­plete with a de­cent kitchen and toi­lets (don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of good loos!), you could host wed­dings, par­ties, con­fer­ences and so on. How­ever, make sure you think of the in­creased work­load this will put on vol­un­teers and whether it will dam­age your abil­ity to run a rugby club in any way. Will mem­bers get frus­trated when they can’t have a beer in the club­house on a Satur­day be­cause there’s a wed­ding tak­ing place?

If widen­ing your of­fer­ing in this way looks sig­nif­i­cantly prof­itable and thus worth­while, look at em­ploy­ing full-time staff to take care of that side of what would be a busi­ness, or out­source el­e­ments. For ex­am­ple, it may be bet­ter to em­ploy a cater­ing com­pany that has the req­ui­site food hy­giene stan­dards cer­tifi­cates to pro­vide food for events.

An­other area to look at is whether there is scope to bring other sports clubs un­der your um­brella and be­come a sport­ing hub for your com­mu­nity. This could in­volve be­com­ing a multi-sports club or be­ing a base for a lo­cal cy­cling or run­ning group. For a start, get­ting more peo­ple through the door, even if they’re not play­ing rugby, helps in­crease bar tak­ings and down the line they could well be­come in­volved in the oval-ball side, whether play­ing or vol­un­teer­ing.

The Bal­ly­hau­nis club in Ire­land has had suc­cess with a reg­u­lar bingo night, for ex­am­ple. That’s fairly sim­ple to put on and draws in more peo­ple from the lo­cal area.

Even small ad­di­tions can make a big dif­fer­ence. Of­fer free WiFi in the club­house – this will ap­peal to the club’s younger mem­bers in par­tic­u­lar and makes it more likely that they will hang around in the bar af­ter a match or train­ing. In­stall a de­cent cof­fee ma­chine – if par­ents can get a qual­ity latte at the club they may stay on site on a Sun­day morn­ing to watch minis train­ing rather than head to the lo­cal cof­fee chain. Even things like serv­ing Prosecco in the bar or hav­ing ice creams avail­able in warmer months makes the club ap­peal to a wider clien­tele and can in­crease prof­its.

What­ever you de­cide to do, make sure you’ve thought it through and you have the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to do it – you don’t want to over­stretch. As Grainger says: “A club needs to work out what its pur­pose is. You’ve got to be sure that the gains are go­ing to be big enough for you to in­vest what is of­ten pre­cious vol­un­teer time.”

How can we in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion?

Don’t nar­row your vi­sion – think out­side the box. Yes, 15-a-side league rugby is most likely the bedrock of your club but it doesn’t hurt to con­sider other op­tions, to widen your of­fer­ings.

More teams isn’t al­ways the an­swer, but more op­por­tu­ni­ties to play is im­por­tant. Do you have a lot of older mem­bers who can no longer play full con­tact but want to keep ac­tive? Why not set up a walk­ing rugby team for them? It’s grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity and could ap­peal to peo­ple in the wider com­mu­nity rather than just those in­volved in the rugby club.

Are there peo­ple at the club who want to play rugby but don’t fancy the con­tact el­e­ment? Cre­ate a touch team. Some O Touch leagues (o2­touch.co.uk) now run year-round rather than in the sum­mer and week­day evenings might ap­peal more to some peo­ple than com­mit­ting to Satur­day af­ter­noons.

Walk­ing, touch, wheelchair, sev­ens… there are myr­iad forms of the game, so don’t limit your club to 15s if there are peo­ple in­ter­ested in try­ing dif­fer­ent

things. It all means more mem­bers and there­fore a more sus­tain­able club.

“The big­gest threat to a club is not be­ing pre­pared to adapt and change,” says Grainger. “A club has to be pre­pared to adapt its ‘of­fer’. Sains­bury’s, Marks & Spencer and Tesco recog­nised not ev­ery­one is go­ing to drive to a big su­per­mar­ket to shop any­more; they’re still buy­ing those goods but buy­ing them from a Tesco Ex­press or on­line.”

A project that has proved suc­cess­ful in the north-west of Eng­land is Fri­day night games, par­tic­u­larly in the North West Ca­sual Leagues and the Cheshire Ca­sual Vets’ Leagues. They play on a Fri­day evening af­ter work, stay in the club­house af­ter­wards and put money be­hind the bar – yet still have their week­end free for fam­ily, work and so on. If your club has flood­lights and there are no noise re­stric­tions in your area, it might be some­thing worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Also, if you’re strug­gling for num­bers in a par­tic­u­lar age group or team, see if other clubs in the lo­cal area are hav­ing sim­i­lar is­sues. It may be bet­ter to join forces rather than lose play­ers to other clubs – or from the sport al­to­gether – be­cause there isn’t an op­por­tu­nity to play. Twit­ter ac­counts like @fy­b_rugby can help find ex­tra play­ers too.

Manch­ester and Stock­port formed a com­bined colts’ team last year as they didn’t have enough play­ers to put out sep­a­rate sides and came sec­ond in their league. Manch­ester’s Steph Lewis said: “Putting the boys’ in­ter­ests over club ri­val­ries meant the suc­cess of the team.”

What’s the best way to set up a women’s and/or girls’ sec­tion?

Mel­bourne, a club in South Der­byshire, has had great suc­cess with its girls’ sec­tion – the Minxes. The first piece of ad­vice from Ju­lia Saun­ders, the chair of Mel­bourne’s minis and ju­niors, is to make sure there are peo­ple at your club who are keen to launch such a team. Peo­ple are far more likely to put time and ef­fort in if they’re pas­sion­ate about some­thing.

Saun­ders also stresses the im­por­tance of hav­ing an of­fer­ing for girls who have come through the minis those who are get­ting their first taste aged ten or 11 and don’t want to play mixed rugby.

“If you’re try­ing to in­tro­duce girls to the game at ten years old, some­times it’s hard to plonk them straight in with the boys,” she says. “They might not be com­fort­able play­ing with boys, com­pared with those girls who’ve been play­ing since U7s. So we have an U11s girls’ team and we re­cruit more girls at that age than any other.”

The club runs fes­ti­vals and four-week tri­als, and links up with schools and the Guides, to at­tract new play­ers, but word of mouth is just as pow­er­ful, girls telling their friends and en­cour­ag­ing them to come along. So it’s an or­ganic process.

Mel­bourne has also had suc­cess

“If you’re try­ing to in­tro­duce girls to the game at ten, some­times it’s hard to plonk them in with boys”

part­ner­ing with other lo­cal clubs. There were only a hand­ful of U18 play­ers last sea­son but the club has a good re­la­tion­ship with Long Ea­ton so they joined up on a few oc­ca­sions. The RFU’s Pitch Up and Play scheme helps with this, as lo­cal clubs can come to­gether with how­ever many play­ers they have and ev­ery­one gets a chance to play.

In Wales, clus­ter centres have been launched so girls can come to­gether in larger num­bers at a lo­cal ‘hub’, when pre­vi­ously they might have had to stop

play­ing or travel long dis­tances if they are the only fe­male in a club’s ju­niors once mixed rugby ends.

Of the clus­ter centres, Jones says: “They are now at 33 venues and thou­sands of girls now reg­u­larly take part in rugby out­side the school en­vi­ron­ment. We have plans to con­tinue to grow and strengthen these struc­tures and op­por­tu­ni­ties in or­der to cater for the in­creased de­mand from girls to play.”

Esher showed what can be done in a short pe­riod when launch­ing a women’s team last sea­son. In three months, the Lionesses re­cruited 32 play­ers through so­cial me­dia and word of mouth. They posted reg­u­larly on so­cial me­dia, with dif­fer­ent mes­sages and hash­tags. They em­pha­sised that they could cater for be­gin­ners and looked to at­tract lo­cal mums and those who wanted to in­te­grate them­selves in the com­mu­nity or get fit, high­light­ing rugby as a sport for trans­for­ma­tion and us­ing sto­ries to ap­peal to a wide range of over-18s.

Women’s man­ager Dr Alex Mure­san says: “Diver­sity at­tracted diver­sity. We stayed away from af­fil­i­a­tion to any par­tic­u­lar de­mo­graphic group pur­posely to en­cour­age more women into rugby.”

Esher also ran In­ner War­rior camps, the RFU project which gives women rugby taster ses­sions. Other unions have sim­i­lar cam­paigns to en­cour­age girls and women to take up rugby – Ire­land has Give It A Try, in Scot­land there’s #BeTheBestYou and the WRU has Game Chang­ers to im­ple­ment the Try Our Game pro­gramme – so look into how those schemes can help your club.

In­tro­duc­ing girls’ and women’s teams can be a big boost for your club, not only bring­ing in more play­ers but mak­ing it a des­ti­na­tion for whole fam­i­lies.

Is there ad­vice avail­able for main­tain­ing our pitch(es)?

Most national unions have re­sources avail­able on their web­sites for how best to look af­ter your pitch. Julie Pater­son, the WRU Head of Rugby Op­er­a­tions, says: “Clubs are able to ac­cess ad­vice and sup­port from qual­i­fied sports-turf specialist and con­trac­tors, in­clud­ing Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium’s ground staff, who will un­der­take pitch in­spec­tions and pro­vide reg­u­lar up­dates on good prac­tice tech­niques.”

Can we save money on en­ergy bills?

As most peo­ple now do with their homes, it’s worth look­ing into whether switch­ing en­ergy providers will re­duce costs. Also make sure you’re us­ing en­ergy-sav­ing light bulbs and if you’re up­grad­ing equip­ment – fridges in the bar, for ex­am­ple – get those with the best en­ergy rat­ing you can af­ford.

In Wales, 11 clubs have un­der­taken an en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency pi­lot project and Pater­son says: “By switch­ing to LED, to­tal sav­ings of £122,000 were iden­ti­fied if mea­sured over a ten-year pe­riod, and a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in CO emis­sions.” So see if us­ing new tech­nol­ogy will help cut costs.

How should we source spon­sor­ship?

This is al­ways a chal­lenge and one that is tougher in the cur­rent cli­mate, where com­pa­nies’ re­sources are stretched fur­ther and many busi­nesses are con­cerned about the im­pact of Brexit.

Firstly, use con­tacts at the club. Is there a player or mem­ber who works for/runs a com­pany that might be in­ter­ested in spon­sor­ing the club? Se­condly, ap­proach lo­cal busi­ness and em­pha­sise the value of get­ting in­volved in the com­mu­nity.

Spon­sors will of­ten be look­ing for more than brand­ing on the play­ing shirts these days. Mak­ing sure your club has a pro­file on­line and so­cial me­dia not only gives the club ex­po­sure and could help at­tract new mem­bers but of­fers the spon­sor(s) ex­po­sure. Also, web­sites and so­cial posts can be used to com­mu­ni­cate spe­cial of­fers and in­for­ma­tion to the club mem­ber­ship from the spon­sors, as can mailouts or emails if you have that sort of data­base (make sure you com­ply with the new GDPR rules!).

If your club has any more ad­vice or in­no­va­tions to share, please email rug­by­worldlet­ters@ti-me­dia.com

Words Sarah Mock­ford & Alan Pearey//Main Pic­ture James Crom­bie/In­phoRais­ing the bar A li­ne­out in the match be­tween Gal­we­gians and UCD

A view to thrill Risca RFC play in a beau­ti­ful set­tingLight up A grant could help pay for flood­lights

Get the beers inBar tak­ings are im­por­tant Lead­ing the wayRyan Jones is Head of Par­tic­i­pa­tion for the WRU

Lit­tle Minxes Mel­bourne’s U11s lis­ten to coach John Couch­man Start ‘em young! Make yours a club for the whole fam­ily

SPIN YOUR WEB See what on­line re­sources your union has avail­able – these linksare a good start­ing point:ENG­laNd ▼eng­lan­drugby.com/my-rugby/IRE­laNd ▼irishrugby.ie/club/club­houseScOt­laNd ▼scot­tishrugby.org/do­mes­tic-rugbyWalES ▼wru.wales/eng/de­vel­op­ment Do­ing his bitA player at Wok­ingLo­cal com­mu­nity Forg­ing links with schools can help with par­tic­i­pa­tion

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