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’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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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