CASE STUDY – Royal Wootton Bassett RFC


Unlike most of our other rugby club customers who started out by looking for a better way of handling and managing bar sales, Royal Wootton Bassett was looking for a new software system that would help them straighten out and administrate their complex and very time consuming membership and subscriptions requirements.

What they desperately needed was clarity and the ability to know precisely what the subscription payment situation actually was, at any given date.

A thriving rugby club, but struggling to manage its membership

With a total membership of around 750, comprising 160 Minis, 100 Juniors, 80 Seniors and the rest a combination of parents and explayers ie. members who’d stopped playing but still enjoyed watching and socialising, or vice presidents as they’re defined, the club’s in great shape.

But managing all these membership categories, to the point of simply knowing who’d paid and who hadn’t, was almost impossible and the burden of establishing the facts, let alone getting the subs paid up, depended far too much on the persuasive and policing skills of the chap in charge of membership.

EPoS paired up with Membership & Subscriptions software

Providing the software to facilitate the membership management was the easy bit, but happily the club was also persuaded they’d be even better off if they combined our Membership & Subs software with our EPoS system (also known as CHIPS), rather than the old stand-alone tills the club had been using.

What got the club’s attention was the simple benefit of having an EPoS and till system that enabled their members to use bar cards to obtain a members’ discount, while simultaneously charging visitors and guests the normal RRP.

This all made a lot of sense as the club was also moving premises from, as one member described it, ‘A hut on the side of a pitch’ in the centre of the town to a full blown £1.3 million clubhouse and pitch on the outskirts of Royal Wootton Bassett. Raising the welcome prospect of attracting outside event and function business and large numbers of visitors, this particular feature of the MHS Group’s EPoS system to simultaneously run differentiated pricing had obvious attractions where the club’s bar sales and gross margins were concerned.

Alec Adams, one of the club’s honorary life members, takes up the story. “The move meant that we started virtually from scratch, in the sense that whatever comparisons could be made between now and then, the new clubhouse was probably largely responsible for our improved sales and bottom line.

“Nonetheless, our cash flow has improved and is typically around the £6,000 mark over a month. In the latest figures for November 2016, given the season’s in full swing now, the figure’s now £7,721. Sales margins are improving as well, as some 20% of our income is now coming from the outside events and functions sales and their impact on the bar sales, where we can now charge the full RRP for all the drinks.

“Our card-holding members receive a 10% discount on drinks purchased and this has encouraged a high take up. We don’t ask them to put any additional annual moneys on their card-based accounts in the way, for example, that I believe golf clubs do. The vast majority of our members use the cards now, and to them it’s simply become a habit. It’s so much easier than making sure you’ve got enough cash, and there’s always that 10% discount as well…

“One other advantage the cards give us is that whenever any of our members have done something major for the club, we can reward them by putting some ‘money’ or value on their bar cards. So when we asked members to find local firms and businesses that might sponsor the club for £200 a year, the reward for those 20 members who succeeded was £100 into club’s account and £100 onto their card account.

“They spend the money at the club of course, so it’s all kept within the club. For others, it may be £20 here, £30 there depending on the tasks achieved for the club. It’s a very easy thing to do and works a treat for the members involved and the club.”

Maximising bar management effectiveness as well

The new EPoS system will soon be proving its worth in other ways as well, as Alec explains: “To maximise the opportunities for even more effective bar management, we’ve recently employed a bar manager. She will not only be looking to improve our gross margins and help us bring in more outside events, but will also be operating the stock control feature of the EPoS system as well. It’s all part and parcel of professionalising the way we run our club, but what I like is the fact that our software can already give us features and benefits and capabilities that we’ll need, even though we haven’t needed to use them up until now.”

Membership management made easier and far less time consuming

Having originally wanted to find software to help the club manage its membership administration, Alec’s delighted with the decision to get MHS Group’s software package: “When it comes to membership management, things are miles better now. Back in the day, we simply didn’t know what the true state of the subs’ payments were, or for that matter, who was actually a paid up member and who wasn’t…but the new software means that now we do know, and we know precisely who!

He continues: “That’s not to say it’s not a challenge to get all the subs’ payments in, but given the due date this year was September 1st, I know we’ve only got 55 people out of 750 who haven’t paid yet, and just as importantly, it’s much easier to keep records of why eg. if a Junior’s broken his arm in the holidays or something, or if someone’s moving out of the area.

 “Knowing the facts and who to chase makes all the difference to the way we go about things, and in turn, the way our members perceive theclub.

 “The software also lets us e-mail the various subscriptions to all our members, which makes a further and very welcome difference to the time and effort involved by unpaid members, and to the cost as there’s no postage to pay for either. With 750 members, even assuming it’s second class that’s significant, especially when you add in the time and cost of printing all the subscriptions, stuffing the envelopes, etc.,

“Our annual subscription for a full playing member is £165, so the vast majority make the one payment. But for some who like to do things by Direct Debit, we’ve been able to get MHS Group to set things up with GoCardless, and this works very well for around 150 of our members.

RFU, First Sports International and MHS Group: working together for the clubs’ benefit

Alec’s enthusiastic about the prospect of the RFU’s chosen technology partner, First Sports International, teaming up with the MHS Group, as he comments: “In terms of the RFU’s requirements, we’ve got no issue with compliance and we think their aims are sound, but as we’re very  happy using our own membership and subs software, we’re keen to avoid having to re-enter all the relevant details into the FSI part of the RFU’s system and database.

“So we’re very pleased to learn that MHS Group’s deep in discussions with First Sports International, the RFU’s chosen software developer, and we’re hoping that this will result in our being able to simply export a CSV file into the RFU’s end of things and be done with it!”

Top notch support: critical where members manage their own club

Beyond using the software itself, what does Alec think about the support from MHS Group? “The original installation was nice and straightforward, as we had a member with IT expertise working hand-in-glove with MHS Group’s Stuart Millar and it took just a couple of days.

“Stuart also trained the bar staff and given the unusual bar situation at any rugby club – pre-match the bar’s busy, then the bar’s emptyuntil the match finishes, then everyone hits the bar with lots of orders, then after a while and quite a few more drinks everyone’s gone! – we found the new EPoS system was enabling much faster order servicing.”

That speed of order completion partly because the cards are simply an account number that’s keyed in, instead of cash being counted and handled, and partly because with the MHS Group’s EPoS system one member of the bar staff’s orders can be interrupted, so while eg. someone else’s Guinness is working its way up to a fullhead, another bar person can set up another order. Another factor is that the regular staff find it easy to show temporary staff how to use the tills, so that they can ‘hit the ground running’.

When it comes to support, as far as Alec’s concerned MHS Group’s Stuart Millar and Andrew Gale come in for special praise where the club’s concerned: “Sometimes we know things can get a bit stretched – they’ve got a lot of customers! – but 99% of the time when we’ve had to call, they’ve dealt with us straightaway and resolved our issue.

“Sometimes, we simply mail Stuart with the problem and leave him to it, and while we’re away, he’ll go in to our PCs or the EPoS via Log Me In and resolve our request. Again, that saves us a lot of time, and it’s very reassuring. So yes, I’d be happy to say that overall, the support’s just great.”

Objectives exceeded

So were the club’s original objectives of purchasing new membership and EPoS software achieved? Alec’s very clear:

“Definitely, in fact I’d say exceeded. All the original criticisms and objections from members who were cynical about technology were rapidly shown to be groundless, and this in itself has built a lot of support that we did make the right decision in the way we spent members’ money.

“When it comes to the reporting, it’s a joy to go to committee meetings armed with all the reports we need, giving us complete breakdowns of our bar sales and membership subscription situations.

“Even now, we probably don’t use the full potential of the system’s reporting capabilities, but I’m sure that’ll change with the new bar manager who will want to know what the main sellers are in terms of products, who the bigger spenders are, and so on. That in turn will improve things for the club’s bottom line as well.

“If in the near future MHS Group can achieve a seamless integration and transfer between one membership database (ie. their’s and FSI’s) and their EPoS system, all our wish list will be fulfilled and it’ll be really terrific.

Alec summarises: “But even in its current state, investing in MHS Group’s technology has made things so much better than before, and I’d have no hesitation in recommending their software to any other rugby clubs’ decision makers.”

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