For any local rugby club, progress typically means the leagues, but nowadays it also means having the plans and the latest tools to:

  • Manage the membership, bar and catering more effectively,

  • Improve the club’s bottom line,

  • Joint Platinum: 10%

  • Both increase and create more value for your members’ subscriptions.

The decision makers at Nuneaton Old Edwardians RFC had long nurtured ambitious plans for the club’s future, but were saddled with a membership structure in which the categories had become numerous and complex, old software that made membership administration laborious, and stand-alone cash tills which made it cumbersome to run the bar, let alone do things like run a tiered discount scheme.

The decision makers at Nuneaton Old Edwardians RFC had long nurtured ambitious plans for the club’s future, but were saddled with a membership structure in which the categories had become numerous and complex, old software that made membership administration laborious, and stand-alone cash tills which made it cumbersome to run the bar, let alone do things like run a tiered discount scheme. That said, they had four main objectives when they searched for some new EPoS and Membership technology for their thriving local rugby club:

  • To add more structure, clarity and capability to the membership categories.
  • To make communications easier and more effective, by using e-mail to communicate with their members and prospective members.
  • To both encourage new members to subscribe, and to increase bar turnover, by providing a series of discounts to their membership categories.
  • Above all, to demonstrate to their members that their club was investing in growth.

Having got the right mindset and plans, what they now needed were the right tools. What followed shows that Nuneaton Old Edwardians RFC is a great example of how investing in some market leading technology can take a club and its membership forwards as a direct result.

Background: an award winning club for friendliness on and off the pitch

Over the 100 odd years of the club’s existence it has gained a reputation for friendliness off the field whilst retaining a healthy competitiveness on it. As a result, the Warwickshire Referees Society has awarded the club the ‘Whistler’ trophy three times in recent years because in their opinion it’s the most pleasant to visit and referee.

Founded in 1910, Nuneaton Old Edwardians initially provided rugby football for the Old Boys of what was King Edward VI Grammar School. Going ‘open’ in 1955, it welcomes players from all backgrounds and walks of life, and the club regularly runs two and occasionally three sides on Saturday afternoons, with the First XV of the club at present playing in the Midlands Two West (South) League.

Streamlining the membership categories

Nuneaton Old Edwardians RFC has potential for over 600 members, with 84 registered players in several different categories, plus over 100 life members.

As part of streamlining the many different membership categories, the decision to acquire and install the new Electronic Point of Sale (EPoS) technology from MHS Group helped crystallise their thinking. Furthermore, it was agreed to combine it with the RFU’s own Game Management System (GMS) developed by its lead technology partner FirstSports, and the net result is that the membership categories have now been streamlined down to just four.

This much simpler membership structure has not only made the administration and subscription invoicing much easier, but has in turn also allowed the club to create and set attractive bar discounts reflecting the relative status of each category:

  • Player: 15%
  • Platinum: 10%
  • Joint Platinum: 10%
  • Standard: 5%

Exploiting the GMS’s Direct Debit feature

The decision was also taken by the Club to utilise the GMS’s Direct Debit functionality, a feature which turns otherwise large and thought-provoking annual payments into monthly or regular smaller amounts, and thus more affordable.

Although currently there is no live link between the EPoS system and GMS, MHS Group are currently developing a software interface. MHS Group will further modify the EPoS software to hold one more character in the Membership Primary Key field so that it is compatible with the GMS . The live link will enable EPoS and the GMS to ‘talk’ to each other and share data in real time, so that a member’s bar card can be pre-loaded, used to buy drinks at discounted prices, topped up and used again, with the transaction and balance data recorded in EPoS and Membership details and subscription payments in the GMS.

Achieving the club’s objectives

Club president Ged O’Neill is delighted that their main objectives are being achieved with the club’s investment in new technology, as he reflects, “It is certainly helping us to add more structure and clarity. It also gives the club the vital capability to communicate with members and prospective members via e-mail, and from an administration point of view it’s providing us with a central point of reference for multiple administrators.”

Creating new opportunities

The EPoS system will create new opportunities as well. Besides establishing a price differential for the bar product sales between members and visitors that will enhance the gross margins over time, the bar cards can potentially be used for paying for functions and even subscriptions. It is currently used to buy food as well, but at non-discounted prices.

The club also has the option, should it wish to in the future, of asking members to place a value on their bar cards eg. £10, £20, £50 or more as an annual requirement, but at the moment this will also remain an option.

Cards are already improving cash flow and (probably) sales

On the other hand, with members putting money on their accounts via the cards and that money being held in the club’s bank account (accounted for as a liability), the club’s cash flow has already improved, as Ged explains, “At this moment in time members pre-payments amount to approximately £400.” This in turn gives the club greater flexibility when it comes to payments etc.

As a result of the change to using cards instead of cash, even with going live for just three weeks the club has also seen a one-off uplift in the bar sales, as Ged outlines, “The scheme is too new to be able to track any significant changes reliably and accurately as yet, but we have had three good weekends with sales exceeding expectations.”

Speeding up the orders

Every rugby club knows what it’s like before and after a match when the bar is far busier than usual and when the time to take orders and serve drinks is even more critical.

The good news is that the new EPoS technology is improving this aspect as well, following staff training on the new system as Ged commented, “The speed of order placing has definitely improved. The initial staff training was facilitated by a test environment, so we were able to hit the ground running when it came to the first real-time opportunity, which of course meant a match when there was a very large number of anxious customers at the bar!”

He continued, “The single EPoS till has proven to be insufficient to meet peak queuing needs, so we’re going to order a second till in due course. All four bar staff are comfortable with operating the EPoS till.”

New features and membership services

Ged also likes the new features that come with their new EPoS, like Tabs for groups or when someone wants to place several orders and pay at the end of the visit. Cashback and splitting bills between customers are both very simple functions and receipts are available on request including Members’ card balances where applicable.

As he explains, “Creating Tabs and Cashback buttons are well understood and being utilised. The security appears good, particularly as individual staff transaction reports are available and are enabled by their personalised fob keys.”

“While there are no plans at the moment, the club could also set up more complex discount schemes such as larger discounts for the bigger spenders, or for a limited period campaign when a supplier has a special offer on a particular line.”

The importance of support

With all the promise that new technology always brings, it’s easy to overlook the primary importance of the back up or after sales service and support which every new user always needs at some point. So in this respect, what does Ged think of MHS Group’s support, as and when it’s been required?

“It’s very good,” he says, “and Stuart Millar from MHS Group has been very supportive whenever we’ve needed his input.” In fact it’s been good enough that when it comes to the club’s overall decision to buy the MHS Group’s EPoS system as a package which includes support, Ged and his colleagues are happy to recommend their MHS Group EPoS software to other rugby clubs.

“Most definitely,” Ged says, “I can now say that it’s been a very worthwhile initiative to update the club’s technology. It’s led directly and indirectly to the club achieving not only the ambitious goals we set for ourselves in terms of membership and bar management, but has opened up all sorts of other benefits and opportunities for the club and its members.”

Ged continues, “But in the longer term the best thing is that all our members can now see that their club is investing in growth, and creating more reasons why they should not only remain members but encourage their friends and colleagues to become members too. That’s very good news for the club’s future.”

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