It has been a tough time for Rugby Clubs. Professional Rugby has made life tough. The work week has made life tough. The changing demand on leisure time has made life tough. And then along comes a Global Pandemic. I hope that this situation has made many realise just how important Clubland is.

Clubs are run by a small, dedicated army of volunteers. Some knew what they were getting into, some step in as a natural progression from playing, coaching, supporting or refereeing, many do it because nobody else will and some are either blackmailed or just plain stupid. It’s a full time, no salary, commitment. I tip my hat to each and every one. THANK YOU.

There are far better qualified folk than me to tell of the challenges facing clubs. But I do feel equipped to give my tuppence worth about what can happen to make life better, to be ready for the return and to be grateful for what we have.

1. Now and before we get back.

Take this time to contact as many members as possible. Get the players to call up and ask how people are. Make a short video that can be attached to the email to members and shared on social media and your club website. Hold a Webinar to talk about the state of the club and intentions for the return. Say ‘thank you’ for staying loyal and connected through this time. Get folk to send in pictures in club colours and share the sh*t out of them on all your Social Media channels. If you don’t have social media channels, get them now, if you only have some, get the rest. It is worth it, I promise. Connect to your sponsors, get people to spend money with them, pay it forward – get vouchers for when things open up again, get a club discount code. Update the website, get people to contribute to it, profiles, blogs, videos…


2. Day 1.

Get everyone down for a game of touch. I mean EVERYONE. Get all members, their families, everyone that is allowed, get them down. DON’T MAKE IT ABOUT PHYSICAL FITNESS. Make it about socially connecting and getting back together in a happy place. Make the reopening the most inclusive event you have ever had. Just make up teams, get the best players to pass all the time and coach everyone through the game. Coaches, play! Bring the kids. Make everyone feel part of it. DON’T KEEP SCORE. Have every bit of kit you can find to giveaway in return for a donation to get everyone wearing the club colours.

Have a BBQ, paint the changing rooms, clean the showers… everyone that arrives has something to offer. Have the bar open, invite an ice cream van, hire a minibus for the day to take folk home so they can have a beer and not have to worry about a taxi. Invite your sponsors. Do a kit and boot exchange. Have a bake sale. Print song sheets and ALL sing together. Don’t let anyone say, ‘I cant sing’, singing together is what makes it fun, not how it sounds. It’s the rugby club, not Glastonbury.


3. After Day 1.

Thank people for coming, Organise something similar really soon after. The habit and routine needs to come back. People will come back depending on how they feel. Have a Festival of Rugby, still focused on inclusion. EVERYONE come and play. Touch for kids, Touch for teenagers, Touch for Adults and some walking Touch too. Invite a PT or a Buggy Fit Company to come and do a taster session and possibly pick up some new clients. Do Zumba with everyone as a warmup.


Training starts…

4. Training starts…

Make sure training is enjoyable. Yes, planned and focused on performance, but enjoyable. Make fitness enjoyable, play loads of games, is Monday and Wednesday better than Tuesday and Thursday? Can training start earlier? Can we get Domino’s Two for Tuesday after training in the Clubhouse? If we all chipped in, can we get chilli or Spag Bol on Thursday after training? Can we train indoors? Is there an astro?


Preparing for Rugby's return

5. Kit.

Get really cool kit and make players accountable, especially young players. Get them to organise it. What do they want? Vests? Bobble hats? Tight trackies? Hoodies? Get the parents of the mini section involved too. Give out the kit list early. Give kit to the sponsors and send them heaps of photos and tag them in everything on social media. Send them framed pictures as well to put up in their shop, bar, office… Buy foam beer bottle / can holders with the club logo and sell the behind the bar. Have pin badges for players to wear and buy as presents. Sell mugs and plastic cups with the club logo on them behind the bar. Have Supporters Kit, the volunteers and folk that travel near and far love to show the colours. Collared t shirts, v neck sweaters, jackets etc etc. ALWAYS HAVE KIT SPECIFIC FOR WOMEN. At Christmas, get a load of club umbrellas, hats, snoods so that Christmas shopping is made easy.


6. Membership fees

PLAYERS! PAY YOUR MEMBERSHIP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Have an early bird £5 bar token as a reward.


7. Play heaps of local derbies.

Players put the kit in the bag. Players empty the water bottles. Players sweep the floor. Bang your boots outside and put your strapping tape in the bin, not on the floor next to the bin. Organise the away team to stay after the game. Buy jugs. Have a sing off. Encourage the home team to buy the opponent a beer after the game. Make speeches and do presentations after the game. ALWAYS HAVE AN AWESOME RAFFLE. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE AWAY TEAM WINS A SLAB OF BEER. Always make sure a kid wins a 4 pack of J2O. ALWAYS LOOK AFTER THE REFEREE.


8. Take photos.

If you have a local friendly photographer, invite them along, give them free membership and a hat. Invite the mini section to play before games and share the pics as often as possible. Share the pics on social media and the website, players love to see themselves.


Preparing For Rugby's Eventual Return

9. Have club days.

Get all the teams in the club to play on the same day. Be together often. Have lunches.


10. Clubhouse set up.

Minimise seating and maximise tall tables so people have to stand, encourage mingling and conversation. Turn the TV down. But have Wifi, make sure you have Wifi. Have a bit for kids. One club I know has a back room with a games console and comfy seats. But have a bit for wee kids. Pay some teenagers to look after wee kids for a while.


11. Have a ‘Welcome Back’ dinner.

The food isn’t important, make it cheap, but make it fun. Get dressed up. Sell club ties, cravats, scarves. Have speakers at the start to get the message across and have a laugh, have a singer or music or someone do a wee turn. Then have a decent playlist and clear the tables to finish with dancing. Get that minibus again for drop offs. The night will make money, but more importantly it’ll make people feel good, together and make memories worth coming back for.


12. Say ‘thank you’ a lot.

To everyone. For everything.


Use the club

13. Use the club.

Encourage everyone to use the club. For birthdays, funerals, weddings, meetings, Yoga, Zumba, buy a dartboard and pool table and a Jukebox.…


14. Be a BIG part of the Community.

Get the local press involved, ask for a weekly column. Be a member of the local Facebook groups, follow the local businesses on Twitter, sing carols in the Supermarket at Christmas, collect and deliver food parcels, clear snow, paint the railings, do a litter pick, host a charity event…


15. Enjoy.

After all, Happiness is Egg Shaped in Clubland.

Bruce Aitchison created the hugely popular Happiness Is Egg Shaped platform as well as having played & coached all over the world. Follow Happiness Is Egg Shaped on Twitter – @happyeggshaped
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