Rugby League

Best Practice Guides

John Oates from Innoved Learning is a leading Club Development Officer, who has worked with a number of community and professional sports clubs...

...including all professional Rugby League clubs throughout the last decade. Here, he shares some of his best ideas, which were presented at two recent community club workshops across the north...

John Oates - Club Development Officer


How To...

Facility Hire & Events

Club facilities vary greatly and individual clubs will need to decide if there is a realistic opportunity to hire them out to businesses, community groups, to individuals for parties or indeed to run events in.


Clubs that have appropriate facilities and that are successful in hiring them out start by analysing what it is that the potential customer wants or needs and then creating marketing collateral that tells the potential customer that the club has what they want or need!


To be successful in selling these facilities to different types of customer the club has it will need to:

1) create marketing materials that promote the fact that the club has what the individual customer is looking for

2) create an active sales campaign that will be distributed to all potential customers

If the club is trying to target businesses, then they will need to build up a data base of local businesses, telephone them to ask them who is the relevant person within the business who makes the bookings for meetings or events and then send them the marketing material.

If they are trying to promote the facilities to individuals within their community then they will need to:

a) promote via their data bases and social media

b) promote their facilities in the local press

Case Study

When Stanningley RLFC planned their new club house they included a function room which is now responsible for generating a huge percentage of the income which is required to fund the club.

This attractive and well-appointed facility is used by individuals within the local communities for birthday parties, 21st celebrations, wedding receptions, Christenings and Funerals.

In fact most Friday and Saturday nights are booked out during the year and the club has difficulties in finding a weekend night for presentation evenings.

The club house is also used during the week by a range of businesses from across the City, including the NHS. They have projectors and screens in two rooms, combined with plenty of parking, an attractive venue and competitive prices it is a sought after facility.

However, the club has also worked to improve the outdoor facilities, a children’s play area attracts families to the club and the quality pitch attracts representative games as well as the Leeds Rhinos academy matches.

In summary, Stanningley RLFC has had the 'vision' to develop an attractive facility which not only serves the players and social members but which

  • can be used to generate an income to support the rugby
  • attracts families
  • attracts representative games

Running Events


Events are very useful activities for clubs as they attract

  • individuals and families to take part who are involved with the club
  • or who are not involved with the club but who live in the community

A wide range of events can be organised by the club which can achieve a range of outcomes, including:

  • Building the club's brand in the community
  • Building the club's reputation within the community 
  • Attracting new 'customers'
  • Generating income
  • Having a social occasion for club members and participants

Clubs need to decide why their events are being run (there may be more than one reason and it might not always to be to generate funds) and to plan and deliver them well.

Planning an Event

To run an event well which delivers the outcomes you set out to achieve, takes a huge amount of planning and commitment. It is therefore important that the club decides to only run one or two events each year and runs them well.

There are four phases of planning an event and they are outlined below;

  • Define the event  what are its objective, what is the vision that the stakeholders have, what is the budget and the pricing structure of event.
  • Marketing the event - Who wants the tickets and why, how to contact these individuals, which marketing material to use and how this links into media plan.
  • Operational plan - preparation of the venue and the staff, development of a customer experience and delivery on the day.
  • Review - what went well and what didn't.

Whilst all aspects of the event are important perhaps the most important aspect is the selling of the tickets.

Firstly you need to know who you are attracting to the event and why they would come.

Is it for entertainment?

If so, what are they expecting to see/take part in?

Once you know the type of person that you are going to attract you need to create marketing material that tells them why they should come, how it fulfils their "wants and needs" and influences them to buy a ticket.

You will also need to know which marketing channel (email, social media, posters, website etc.) you can use to contact them. 

The selling needs to be active with all club members playing a role in promoting the event.

It goes without saying that the experience needs to be good if you expect people to come back again! Finally, don't forget to collect the data from the individuals who but tickets.

This will make the selling of the event next year much easier.


An established and flourishing database will bring value to the club in many ways: 

  • Each individual who is connected to the club, from the person who comes to the Blues night event to the social member, has a value to the club. They are a 'customer' and their data needs to be collected - with their permission. Collected data can be used as many times as required, as long as the Data Protection Act is adhered to, and it must be used responsibly. The data cannot be given to a third party to use without permission from the individuals on the data base.
  • It costs six times less to retain a customer as it does to find a new one.
  • Therefore, for instance, if all of the names of the people who came to the summer school last year are on a data base they can be contacted directly about this year's summer school.

Collecting Data

The club should aim to collect data whenever it comes into contact with a customer.

This isn't always possible, but the club should

a) have a designated volunteer to lead in this area


b) it should use some of the following techniques:

  • Membership - the Pitchero membership function, as an example allows all club members to join on line and their data is automatically collected.
  • Events - if the club sells tickets for an event (such as a family day), data should be collected 'at the point of sale'.
  • Holiday courses - make sure that there are registration forms which need to be filled out and returned.
  • Competitions - to enter a free competition for a free shirt, fill out this form.
  • Newsletters - individuals should be encouraged to sign up for the club newsletter through a data portal on the website.


Collected data could increase the value of sponsorship packages.

  • An example of this might be the local butcher who wants to increase his business through sponsorship at the local club.
  • The club has 1,000 local people on its data base, but cannot give the data to the butcher unless everyone on the list has agreed to it being distributed to other businesses. However, the club can send a letter saying "one of our main sponsors, WD Thompson the butcher, is offering 5% discount to anyone who takes this letter into his shop this Saturday." (Even then the customer can opt out of receiving a similar correspondence in the future).
  • The fact that 1,000 individuals can receive this letter increases the value of sponsorship.
  • You can also be accountable to the sponsor through the feedback of email statistics i.e. how many people opened the e mail and/or what percentage of the people who opened the email clicked through on the web link.

What data should you collect

  • Name and address
  • Postcode and email address
  • Telephone Number/mobile number
  • Family Status
  • Date of Birth
  • Twitter account
  • Occupation
  • Favourite Food

If they are under 18 years of age, you will need parental consent to keep data

If you have any questions on data, there is a Government-run helpline - 01625 545745

Email Marketing

The real 'power' in e mail marketing is through the ability to segment the club's database to send out emails to groups of individuals that have a common interest/want/need.

The Pitchero email marketing tool will allow the club to achieve this and will result in much more effective marketing campaigns.

Examples of segments could be:

  • Customers who attend events
  • All playing members or all social members
  • Businesses who buy advertising or sponsorships

Case Study

Thatto Heath Crusaders ARLFC has focussed not only on collecting data of all individuals who are members of the club, but they have used this data in a bespoke subscription 'monitoring' package.

Anyone who joins the club is expected to fill out a membership form and a Standing Order form which will take out £10 a month from their account.

Every one of the 450 members needs to do this, or they won't be eligible to play for the club.

This information is then imported/loaded into their bespoke subscription system.

This system

a) holds all of their data

b) holds all of their standing order information

c) is integrated into their bank details to update/check the payments each week

d) tracks each individual and provides simple to view information for each coach

Each week, the coach can see whose payments haven't gone through the system and can directly contact the individual concerned to find out if there is a problem or not.

The benefits to the club as numerous, the data allows for more effective communication and the subscription system provides the club with efficiencies in terms of payments, cashflow and membership.

Data Protection

You can get any detailed information on data protection from the helpline shown below but the basics that you should remember are;

  • The individual you are adding to your data base should know that you are collecting their data. You aren’t able to collect it from a directory or from a third party.
  • The process needs to be open and transparent
  • They need to know what you are using it for. This is usually for club marketing and administration purposes.
  • It can’t be passed on to a third party unless the individual agrees
  • There needs to be an opt out on all e mails
  • Children under 18 - you should have parental consent

Integrating with and being visible within your community

Each club sits within a community which is typically made up of several thousand people.

Within these communities are the potential customers for all of the club's 'products' including participants, businesses who might hire the facilities or sponsor the club, individuals for events, families, members and spectators.

The club needs to ensure that it is 'visible' within the community and, in order to optimise the potential of that community, it needs to focus on the following:

Brand Awareness

Every Sports Club Business needs to develop its own brand which sets it apart from the other clubs and which is recognisable within its community.

To achieve this, there must be a name and design/logo which is distinct from the competition so that customers and potential customers (participants, members, families, businesses, schools etc) recognise it.

As the brand becomes established, the club will need to develop its own values such as fun and professionalism, safe and welcoming. If it is decided that these are the values the club is to be known for, then they must be consistent and members will need to strive to deliver them on a consistent basis.

To be successful in selling these facilities to different types of customer the club has it will need to:

1) create marketing materials that promote the fact that the club has what the individual customer is looking for

2) create an active sales campaign that will be distributed to all potential customers

If the club is trying to target businesses, then they will need to build up a data base of local businesses, telephone them to ask them who is the relevant person within the business who makes the bookings for meetings or events and then send them the marketing material.

If they are trying to promote the facilities to individuals within their community then they will need to:

a) promote via their data bases and social media

b) promote their facilities in the local press

Points to remember

Case Study - Wigan St Patricks ARLFC

Integrating with the Community

The Club has recognised that it needs to develop a brand which is attractive to its potential participants, parents and supporters and it provides a club which offers them "what they want" from a sports club.

Wigan St Patricks ARLFC has worked hard to develop an ethos and they have written a 'mission statement' for the club:

"Providing our Community with fantastic Rugby League experiences, on and off the field, at all levels of the game."

To support this mission statement they have produced a "values statement" which is understood and adhered to by all members of the club.

The Club's values represent the distinctive core beliefs to which we are passionately committed as a Club and which underlie everything we do. They are the guiding principles and deeply held convictions and priorities which represent what we stand for and, as such, are the foundations upon which our Club is built.

The values to which we are committed at Wigan St Patricks ARLFC can be defined as:

  • Opportunity: to give children and young people within our community opportunities for lasting achievement through sport, whatever their background or ability
  • Inspiring: to inspire children and young people within our community to achieve personal development by promoting and encouraging mutual appreciation and respect, both for themselves and for others
  • Belonging: to encourage and promote within our Members and our community a sense of belonging that encourages personal development and the enjoyment of working and playing together as part of a team
  • Values: to be committed to family values by being encouraging, welcoming and supportive to all members of the family or community, whatever their status or contribution, whenever they visit us
  • Enjoyment: to encourage and promote pride and enjoyment for everyone in being part of our Club, whether as a player, coach, parent, spectator, sponsor, employee or volunteer
  • Friendship: to encourage, promote and inspire friendships for life through our Club
  • Community: to “go the extra mile” in giving our community a service and opportunities that they may not otherwise have
  • Standards: to insist upon and be committed to high standards and a safe, secure environment at all times in everything we do.
  • Equality: to treat everyone fairly and equally and refuse to tolerate discrimination of any kind or in whatever form, whether on the grounds of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, ethnic, national or regional origin, religion, belief, ability or disability, or for any other reason or of any other description whatsoever

This all comes together to form a club in which all families and members of the family are welcomed, in which the focus is on playing the game, not winning at all costs and which the members are encouraged to think of the club as being "theirs to enjoy and to look after."

Finally the club sends out regular surveys to its members to find out from them what they want from the club and what isn’t working for them at the club. Great “customer service”…
Supporting the local Community

The club is determined to be involved with and to support its local community. The Club house is the venue for Irish Dancing. Aerobics, healthy eating initiatives, the local darts and snooker teams.

The club works within the local schools providing coaching and the local schools often use the club facilities for sports days and events. The club also gets involved with Charity work raising money for Joining Jack, Cancer research and supporting the Marines Charity with an annual rugby fixture which raised £2000 last year.


All of these factors combine to provide the club with enormous support from the Community in which it sits.

This can be seen through the participants they attract from their community, the sponsorship they attract from their community and the brand awareness they generate within their community.

Case Study - Cramlington Rockets

Developing a club ethos and selling the club in its Community


Northumberland-based Rugby League club Cramlington Rockets have emerged as runners up in the National Club of the Year category at this year's Rugby Football League Community Awards.

Just missing out on top spot to well-established Siddal ARLFC, it is an amazing achievement for England's most northerly club.

The rise of the Rockets has been one that has caught the eye of many of the Rugby League community. Formed in Killingworth only sixteen years ago, a move to expand the club's reach saw it relocate to Cramlington in 2009 and they have not looked back since.

The first year in Northumberland saw 40 junior players play that season.

Fast forward to 2016 and the club now has 230 players from Rocket Tots to Open Age.

This year, its teams featured in no less than seven Grand Finals and Rockets side topped every North East junior league.

Success on the field however is only part of the story. Two years ago the club took the brave step to launch Rockets Community, the only community club in the UK to do so at the time.

Completely self-funded, Rockets Community has proven an unmitigated success and now reaches over 25,000 people a year and growing.

With several awards to their name, including the North East's Rugby League Spirit of the Community award, it is now being held up as an example of community engagement to the rest of the UK’s club by the RFL, the sport’s governing body.

Developing a Club Ethos and selling it to the Community

The Ethos

Cramlington Rockets has over 200 individuals playing Rugby League in the club and has also attracted over 40 volunteers to support the running of the club.

There is a strong ethos across the club of enjoyment, respect, positive lifestyles and family values.

To reinforce this, the club interviews any adults who want to become involved with the club to ensure that they:

a) understand what is expected of them

b) that they are prepared to embrace the culture.

There are codes of conduct and expectations laid down for staff, players and parents:

  • Speak to players by name at least once in every session
  • Ensure players are continually challenged 
  • Positive reinforcement of attitude and effort
  • Don't over use a talented player, treat all players as equals 
  • Never publicly criticise the Match Officials Remember you are coaching kids DO NOT be a "win at all costs" coach

Player code of conduct and expectations: 

  • Respect all coaches, players and supporters.
  • Respect your health; don't use illegal or unhealthy substances.
  • Respect the match officials and their decisions. 
  • Be a good sport. Respect all good play whether from your team or the opposition, shake hands after the game with the opposition players and match officials - win, lose or draw.

Parents and supporters code of conduct:

  • Remember children participate in Rugby League for their own enjoyment, not yours.
  • Respect the Match Official's decisions, don't argue or complain during or after the match 
  • Encourage players to play by the rules 
  • Never ridicule a player for making a mistake
  • Do not jeer or taunt the opposition players 

Selling the Club - The Community Programme

The club now has two full time and 3 part time coaches working in 28 local schools (junior schools and High Schools). As well as rugby coaching they deliver Healthy Lifestyle lessons and assemblies within the schools.

They also run 14 camps in two venues during the year and these focus on Multi sport, Mini Rugby and Junior Rugby. The income generated by these camps (£10 per person per day) and the money generated from the schools is invested back into paying for the coaching team.

As a new initiative the Community team is going to use the “Street Games” model and take their coaching into deprived areas of Northumberland for one day camps/events.

This activity provides huge penetration into their target community and they distribute 5000 promotional flyers every two months (designed by a supporter who is at University studying graphics).

These flyers, along with the reputation the club is building as a family orientated club and the quality coaching which is delivered within the schools is ensuring that the club has a constant stream of new players and volunteers.

Generating Funds

The Club has also been very successful in generating funds from Trust and Foundations.

It regularly is able to access funds from the Northumberland Children's Trust and the Northumberland Community Trust.

However, the main success has been the achievement of winning the Aviva Judges Choice Award, a national competition in which they won £25,000 to spend on their community activity during the next 5 years.

To achieve this they needed to receive votes from members of their community and they ended up receiving over 10,000 votes, the highest number of votes for a community programme in the Country.


One of the major challenges that community sports clubs face is in recruiting the volunteer workforce to run the club.

People are reluctant to commit to hours of volunteering in today's 'busy' world.

Clubs are also finding that very often when they do find volunteers, they don't have the specific skills that are needed i.e. selling, social media, event management etc.

The savvy clubs are addressing these problems by:

a) they now look for volunteers who have specific skills and involve them in short term projects rather than ask for commitment every week. For example they may have an events group that only run two events per year and in between these events aren’t involved with the running of the club.

b) Many clubs target students or young executives who by getting involved with sports clubs can enhance their CVs. Again, they may only be involved in one project such as running a sales campaign, running a social media campaign or running and managing the database.

In summary, the club is able to attract people with the right skills to become involved but only for a short term and working on one project.

​Manchester Rangers

Manchester Rangers have created a 'vision' of being a community-orientated Rugby League club that can grow to represent Manchester in the Championship and beyond.

In order to achieve this, they have targeted a group of volunteers who operate as a board but who have their own specific skills and responsibilities and who only meet every three months.

This board not only has the skills required to assist the club in achieving its vision, but they have also be targeted as people who have networks within the City and who could create partnerships.

Kevin (Sponsorship) – local entrepreneur who has a wide network of businesses.

Neil/Jim (Finance) – Run an accountancy business

Yvonne (Community Development) – CEO of Manchester CSP

Deborah (Marketing and Media) – works full time in Media

Damian (legal) – Lawyer

The outcome is that the club is able to operate professionally in all of these areas and is able to create influential partnerships to assist with the development of the club.

Mirfield Stags

In a very similar way, Mirfield Stags have attracted individuals that have specific skills.

Ryan Sparks is the MD who looks after the general running of the club with a focus on the accounting side of the club.

Iain Meyser has responsibility for the web site and the social media.

They also have individuals who are responsible for

a) the secretarial function

b) the general management of the teams

c) the coaching side of the club.

This group of Individuals don't meet as a committee, but work as business heads of departments who know what they are expected to deliver and who only come together if there are problems to solve.

Your @MirfieldStags gearing up for today's @YorkshireRL Premier Division clash with @HullWykeArlfc#WeAreStags
— Mirfield Stags (@MirfieldStags) July 30, 2016


The family unit is a valuable commodity for any club since they can provide participants, revenue, volunteers and networks for the club.

We know that a family is worth between £200 and £1000 a year through the purchase of membership, events, merchandise, food and drink over the bar etc.

Therefore it is essential that the club is proficient in

a) attracting the family to the club and

b) retaining them - since every family is potentially worth a minimum of £200

It is also therefore essential that the club attracts the whole family and that the children aren't simply "dropped off" before training and picked up afterwards with only a junior membership being purchased.

Key Points

The club needs to understand the "wants and needs" of the parents for their children.

When trying to sell the club to the parents, this information needs to be included in the letter of flyer.

If the Father is involved with rugby it is usually him who will bring his child/children along to rugby.

If the family doesn't have any involvement with the game, then it is usually the mother who decides if her children are going to play rugby or to some other sport.

The club's aim is to get the whole family involved with the club.

This will involve the parents staying during the training and not simply dropping off their child.

If one or both of the parents is already involved with rugby this is straightforward. If not, then it is essential that the club communicates with the parents (especially the Mother) and tells them what's the benefits are if they do get involved.

This might be simply a coffee and bacon sandwich in the club house or a fitness session for parents.

Once the club has involved the family, it must work to retain them because of their value in all of the areas highlighted above.

What are the wants and needs of the parents for their children?

We know from research carried out by Kellogg's in Ireland that the 'wants and needs' are:

  • Challenge for the children
  • Experience success and failure
  • Develop confidence and self esteem
  • Learn about team work
  • Make friends
  • Have fun
  • A Safe Environment
  • Coaches who understand child development

This information needs to be included in any sales letters that go to parents to encourage them to involve their children in the sport.

We know that rugby does develop positive attitudes in children but we don't always tell people this when encouraging them to become involved.

What are the wants and needs of the Mother?

As was mentioned previously it is essential to consider the wants and needs of the Mother if you want to get the whole family involved.

As a basic starting point, she will need to be told what's in it for her to come into the clubhouse and to become involved.

The main areas to focus on are;

  • Social - is it possible to create a social gathering at the clubhouse during training? Can you run events just for parents?
  • Communication and organisation – does the Mother know what is happening and when?
  • Welcoming and informed. Is the Mother welcomed into the club house and are the people she meets informed and have an understanding about her wants and needs
  • Safe - for the family and the child

Retaining the Family

This really comes down to offering customer service - since the family are customers of the club since they have chosen to spend their time/money with the club. The points that need to be focussed upon are:

  • Understanding the customers wants and needs
  • Does the club understand what the Family wants and does it strive to deliver it.
  • Fulfilling their expectations
  • If the club offers the customer one thing then delivers another it will lose the customer to the competition.
  • Does the training start on time and finish on time? Is it fun, challenging etc. as was promised in the "sales letter."

Make service personal

When the new family arrives at the club they need to be welcomed, it needs to be recognised that they are new and any follow up needs to be personalised, not just a general letter to “Dear New Parent” Establish an excellent customer experience.

If the "customer experience" is good then not only will they stay with the club, they will tell others about it.

Develop staff understanding of the importance of customer service and commitment to customer service.

The volunteers aren't expected to be customer service experts but if they understand

a) how important the service is and

b) make sure that the areas in which they are involved embrace customer service, then it will make a massive difference.

The point made above emphasises this; if a player or family is new to the club, welcome them and spend time understanding what it is they want from the club. Strengthen the bond with your customer – communication

Resources will dictate how often you will be able to communicate with your customers and through which channels.

However the basics are

1) collect data whenever you can from your “customers” and build up some basic profile information (what do they come to events, did they book the room for a birthday party etc.)

2) use the relevant channels – Social Media is the relevant channel for young adults whereas e mail is probably more relevant for older people

3) keep your customers informed generally but if you have some basic profile information about them, target them with specific messages e.g. we know that your children came to the summer school last year and it is being run again this year. Here is the information…

Evaluate your service through questionnaires

Listen to your customers and if you have the resources send out a basic questionnaire to find out what they do and don’t like about the club. Many clubs are using Survey Monkey which is a free resource and which is available on the Internet


In common with customers for any product, participants and parents can choose to become members at a wide range of Rugby League clubs.

Their decision is based upon "what they want" from a rugby club.

If they are adult players and want to perform at a high level, then they will choose a club which competes in the higher leagues, that has good coaching, good facilities and a strong ethos.

Parents will choose a club that offers them what they want for their children and this will include good coaching, a safe environment, a welcoming environment, a club where their children can make friends, discipline and very often a social environment for themselves.

The successful club are very conscious of this and will

a) strive to create a club which offers what the target audience wants and

b) promote the ethos and beliefs of the club. However, it is also important to deliver what you promise to deliver unless the “customers” will move away.

A family-orientated club, for example, must be welcoming, must look after the parents, run family-orientated events, be child friendly and provide good coaching.

What does it offer to the players?

The juniors are provided with an environment in which the aims are friendship, discipline and hard work. All players are welcomed and all players are treated equally but they strive to ensure that every player has an opportunity to develop, to be as good as they can be.

The senior players are treated in a similar way with discipline and hard work but the club is ambitious and the players are expected to provide commitment. In return they are supported with good coaching and an environment which cares for them and in which friendships flourish.

Several years ago two members of the club took their own lives. In response to this the club recognised the importance of understanding mental illness and they introduced a support through a charity called “State of Mind” who came and talked to the players. It opened up the subject for debate and there are channels of support for any player within the club who has any issues they need to discuss.

The club also raised £24,000 to build a memorial to the two members but it chose to create a very visible memorial of a children’s playground. This provides benefit to the young people but also acts as a reminder of the need to be aware of the importance of mental health support.

Case Study - Siddal ARLFC

Siddal ARLFC is a hugely successful rugby club that attracts and retains families, players and supporters from across its community and, most impressively, beyond.

The "product" that all of these individuals want to buy is a club in which people are valued, they are supported, they are welcomed and that they are provided with "what they want" from the game and from their club.

The Club also works hard to understand what their players and supporters "want" from them and strive to provide it, in other terms they provide great "customer service."

This ethos isn't written down like it is in some clubs but is a culture which has been developed by its members and which is supported, developed and reinforced by its members.

Responding to the player's wants and needs

They also developed an u23 team which was in fact their 'A' team but, by calling it the u23 team, it had its own identity.

By doing this, they have been successful in retaining players and in developing young players by allowing players to play with their peers at a time that is most convenient to them, within a performance environment.

Within this environment, the opportunity to progress either through to the Siddal First Team or into the (semi) professional ranks still exists.

Talented players

The club has been very successful in developing young talented players for the professional game.

However, they recognise that not all players make it and if they do the impact on the individual’s self-esteem is huge, many in fact drop out of the game.

At the club they care about these individuals and work hard with them to re integrate them into the club, to show them respect and re build up their confidence. This has been a very successful activity for both players and the club.

The Future

The club is currently working to encourage younger people with specific skills to get involved in the club.

Several individuals are becoming involved with specific projects and it is starting to impact on areas such as data base management, marketing and sponsorship. 


All clubs need to have a strong membership base which will be made up of a range of individuals and families.

A majority of the members will be participants but they will also include parents, individuals who are interested in the social aspects of the club

And country members,members who have moved away from the area but who still have an interest in the club and are general supporters of the club.

The membership income is one of the main income streams for the club and therefore it is important that the club focusses on it and actively attempts to grow the income.

The club will need to understand

a) who the potential members are

b) what their individual 'wants and needs' are and

c) actively communicate with the potential members

Key points to remember are:

  • For each category ensure that benefits are included that are wanted by the specific group being targeted. If you don’t know what it is each category wants then carry out some research to find out
  • Use the web site, social media, word of mouth and e mail to sell the memberships, telling target groups what they get and why they should consider buying a membership.
  • Actively sell memberships and collect data from all members.
  • Ensure that what members are told they will get from their membership is delivered. It costs more to find a new member as it does to keep one.

The Target Group - examples


What you offerthis target group will vary and therefore it is important that the club recognises the different types of “customer”. The performance rugby player (male or female) will want to have good coaches, good facilities, and a competitive team. The social rugby player will also require good coaching and facilities but will also want to have fun and a good social life through the club. Others may simply want the club to be welcoming to families.

Parents; the parents may simply take out a Junior Membership for their child/children if you don’t tell them about the benefits of being family members. These benefits could include discounts at events, access to certain social events, newsletters, fitness classes for mothers etc.

Social Members – You will need to understand why a non-participant should join the club. What’s in it for him/her if he does? The package needs to be developed and promoted.

Country Members – all clubs have individuals and families who have moved away but who would still like to be linked to the club. The Country Membership should be cheap but offer benefits such as newsletters, discounts on club merchandise etc.

Case Study - Malahide RFC


As a result of falling revenue and recommendations within the club's Strategic Plan, membership was reviewed in 2010.

A Membership Steering Group was set up and undertook to carry out a full membership review which focussed on:

  • Researching what local clubs were offering, their structures and price points
  • Identifying any gaps that may have been over looked by their current structure, e.g. online membership - easier access to membership, etc
  • Look to offer existing and potential members something that encompasses more than just a rugby culture
  • Examine ways in which the club could increase footfall into the facility through a new membership programme

The Steering Group findings were as follows

  • Existing club records were in disarray – needing immediate attention
  • Many of those considered to have paid their membership had not done so
  • Many email addresses were invalid and so too were member contact details
  • Fewer than 30 % of those on the system were actually members
  • Club emails were going to non-members and not reaching our actual membership
  • No central record system for mini and youths – all records held by coaches
  • At the time, two-thirds of the senior membership had not paid their subs
  • The club needed to include non-rugby members from surrounding areas if it were to increase footfall into the facility and increase revenues
  • We urgently needed to increase our membership and our parental involvement

What did they do?

They decided to a) ensure that each category provided value for money and provided the benefits that were required b) they created a range of community groups which would attract memberships e.g. Golf society, cycling club etc. c) they actively sold the membership d) they created a web application form for membership (see below)

The Outcomes

  • Accurate club membership database
  • Online Membership plans set up through website
  • Significant increase in all areas of club membership - Playing , senior, youth, minis,Student, Associate / Social /OAP
  • Societies within club set up; Tag Rugby,Wheelers,Golf,Fitness and Running


Sponsorship is undoubtedly one of the key sources of income for all clubs, irrespective of their size.

Without a successful sponsorship programme, the clubs will struggle to reach their income targets.

What is Sponsorship?

Sponsorship is when a person or business supports a person, group of people or sporting club (this could be financially or in kind) in an activity which provides a profit for the recipient.

In return, the sponsor usually receives some business benefit, although philanthropic sponsorship does exist.

What is the situation today?

In the past, many businesses that have been connected to a club have supported it through sponsorship without wanting anything back from it.

This situation has changed dramatically during the last few years as the economic climate has changed, with many Sponsors now needing to justify their investment in the club.

What does the club need to understand?

For the club to have a successful sponsorship programme now it needs to understand the following:

  • Which outcomes does the business want to achieve from their investment?
  • How can the club assist them in achieving these outcomes?
  • How does the club put a sponsorship package together and which skills do they need to sell it, especially in the face of competition?
  • Once they have a sponsor how do they service the sponsorship and retain it?
  • Companies use sponsorship in order to fulfil their business needs

Building a sponsorship campaign

Background Information

What does the Sponsor want from the deal?

As we have mentioned there are some sponsors who will provide sponsorship funds for philanthropic reasons. For the purpose of this paper we are going to assume that all sponsorships exist to fulfil business needs for the sponsor.

There are five main reasons why a business might buy sponsorship:

  • To find it more customers
  • To assist it in retaining its existing customers
  • To assist in developing brand awareness for the business
  • To build up the reputation of the business in the local community and wider world – this is sometimes called CSR.
  • To motivate and reward it’s work force

What does the club have that can fulfil these needs?

  • To find more customers - databases, members, supporters
  • To retain customers - hospitality and games and events when the business can interact with its clients
  • Brand awareness - shirt advertising, web site, pitch side hoarding, programme, roadside advertising
  • Build their reputation - involvement in community and mini rugby activity
  • Motivate workforce - be seen to support sport, activity in their community. Employee involvement, TAG/Touch Tournaments etc.

Key Points

  • The greater the numbers that the club has for the following - databases, members, Facebook Likes, hits on the web site, spectators etc. - the greater the value the sponsorship will have
  • Different sponsor will want different outcomes from the relationship. Some may want to find new customers and to motivate their staff; others may want to build their reputation
  • The key to selling sponsorship is to find out what the business is looking for and to offer it to them!
  • Once you have a sponsor in place you need to retain them by ensuring that you speak with them on a regular basis and check that they are getting the outcomes they expect

Writing the Sponsorship Document/Presentation

I have outlined below one suggestion for the structure of the sponsorship document or PowerPoint

Section One

Background on the club covering areas such as ethos, structure, history, Geographic location, activities, teams and achievements

Section Two

The ambitions of the club – what is the clubs 'vision' and what will it look like in three years’ time.

Section Three

The numbers section:

  • Size of data bases - demographics and post code analysis if possible
  • Numbers of users on the web site, social media sites etc.
  • Number of participants in each section of the club
  • Number of members
  • Coverage in local press – press cuttings if possible
  • Number of cars driving past the end of the road
  • Number of businesses using the club house

Section Four

The Sponsorship Rights

This is basically a summary of what the business gets for its money and will depend on what it is hoping to achieve through the relationship. It may include;

  • Access to the clubs data – in line with data protection laws
  • Advertising sites – web site, e mail, posters, at the ground etc.
  • Summer school for employees
  • Table at the end of season dinner

Section Five

The Investment – how much, when it is payable and how long the term of the sponsorship is.

To Be Successful

  • Understand that sponsorship has to be “sold” and that the potential sponsor has business” needs” that he has to fulfil.
  • Preparation is vital – know what it is you have to sell, build up a target list and prepare sponsorship/marketing collateral. Try to find out through research how you could help a business to fulfil it’s business needs
  • Be professional at all times – your competition will be!
  • If you don’t have the necessary marketing skills (do you know how to make a sales call or write a sales letter) find a local course that will teach you
  • If you sign a sponsorship deal don’t forget to service It!
  • Understand that sponsorship has to be “sold” and that the potential sponsor has business” needs” that he has to fulfil.
  • Preparation is vital – know what it is you have to sell, build up a target list and prepare sponsorship/marketing collateral. Try to find out through research how you could help a business to fulfil it’s business needs
  • Be professional at all times – your competition will be!
  • If you don’t have the necessary marketing skills (do you know how to make a sales call or write a sales letter) find a local course that will teach you
  • If you sign a sponsorship deal don’t forget to service It!

Case Study - Leigh Miners Rangers

Developing an income stream through Sponsorship

The sponsorship opportunities that Leigh Miners Rangers have available are tailored to accommodate all budgets and offer a great way for you to promote your business or simply to show your support, in the knowledge that you are making a great contribution to community sport in Leigh.

The income generated through Sponsorship at Leigh Miners Rangers is well into five figures and is the second largest income stream behind membership.

They offer a wide range of packages which include:

  • Match Day Sponsorship
  • Ground Advertising
  • Programme Advertising
  • Match ball Sponsorship
  • Player Sponsorship
  • Player Kit Sponsorship
  • Shirt Sponsorship
  • Website advertising

The Sponsorship sales are run by volunteers and focus on Corporate Social Responsibility i.e. the club is a very community orientated club offering opportunities for women, children, players who want to perform at the highest level and those who want to play socially.

This fact attracts sponsors who want to be seen to supporting their local community and to develop their brand awareness through the association with the club.

The club works very hard to ensure that the sponsor's brands are given promotion through their social media channels and web site. This in turn acts as a promotion for the sponsorship with other businesses being attracted to the club via this activity.

The packages are also promoted through the web site and a commercial document which shows an understanding of what the sponsors and advertisers want from their involvement with the club.

The club also focusses on providing an outstanding matchday experience for those sponsors whose packages include match day hospitality.

A new facility adjacent to the pitch for the sponsors allows them to provide this experience along with a personal interaction from all of the club officials.

In summary, the club's approach to sponsorship is one in which they:

a) provide packages which reflect what the sponsors want I.e. provision of brand promotion and match day experiences

b) they promote these packages well and

c) they deliver what they say they will. The result of this is that sponsors support the club year on year and new sponsors are attracted because of this.

Case Study - Mirfield Stags ARLFC

Sponsorship is essential for the club since it funds all of the activity which takes place on and off the field.

Mirfield Stags has developed a very strong ethos, especially in this area and it is based upon the following.

The club shouldn't go for 'charitable handouts' from its supporters but should work to attract supporters/sponsors who benefit from their involvement.

To be in a position to provide this, the club:

a) needs to have a strong and consistent brand (all of the playing kit across the club is the same and the logo is a very strong and distinctive logo)

b) The sponsors are given exposure across all of the social media and web site channels. To achieve this, the club strives to have a high quality web site which attracts people to it and works hard to provide interesting content for its social media channels.

As a result of this they have almost 1600 followers on Facebook, nearly 2000 Twitter followers and close to 400 on Instagram.

The Club also works hard to get coverage within the local media.

The club provides a wide range of packages for potential sponsors which vary in price from £100 upwards.

These sponsorships are sold through discussions in which the club aims to find out what it is the potential sponsor wants from the sponsorship and then tries to offer it to them.

Sponsors are rewarded for their loyalty. The sponsors who have been with the club since the start of the club two and a half years ago are offered a slightly cheaper deal.

The Club also offers contra deals for those sponsors who want to become involved and want to use their goods or services in exchange for the sponsorship benefits.

Finally, the club aims to provide a local rugby league club with opportunities for all of the local community from children to adults. This is also a good CSR opportunity for local businesses.

In summary the club has taken a very professional view of its sponsorship activity. It aims to provide value for its sponsors and an association with a strong local brand.