02/05/20 | General
In Part 4, as we move this discussion along, about the merits of paying players or not, we take a long, hard look at what constitutes a successful grass roots community rugby club. How do we measure success? Is it by the performance of the First Team or are there other values we all need to be considering?
Andy Leach, Club Treasurer and Steve Ashall, both lifelong members, offer their opinions, both in their own very different ways.
What is success?
When, back in September 2009, I started out on my 10-year stint as Chairman of Lymm Mini & Juniors this was a question I pondered long and hard. Sure there were many possible yardsticks that could be latched upon but, for me, having considered these, there could only ever be one true measure for a club such as ours – the number of players we could help progress through the mini and junior ranks to play senior open age rugby.
It didn’t actually matter that much to me if they ended up playing for Lymm or another club, I was just keen that our players had the opportunity to play and enjoy a great game, build enduring friendships and socialise in a welcoming and familiar environment. We built bridges between senior and junior players, created our Colts Academy where senior players would coach, build a common playing style and ethos across the club, inevitably, talent spot and generally work to dismantle the barriers that could be seen as impediments to a seamless progression into the adult rugby ranks. Never once was money or payment of players mentioned or considered.
Whilst I fully appreciate that the game has moved on considerably since my own playing days – it is undoubtedly more physical, the players are incredibly fit and almost certainly more talented – the important things are still the same. It’s about playing with your mates, having fun, socialising in a familiar and welcoming environment and it’s definitely about much more than the 80 minutes on the pitch each week.
I can recall an instance a few years ago when one of our players elected to move to another, semi-professional club, to be paid and try his hand in a higher league. He was back within a month or so as he quickly appreciated that padding his wallet with a few notes was no compensation for spending his Saturday on a bus to London, with people he hardly knew, and missing out on the craic with his chums at Lymm Rugby Club.
Now as Treasurer of Lymm, I know only too well the challenges of balancing the books at a club such as ours – and we are lucky! We own our own pitches and clubhouse, we have an incredibly committed and sizeable group of volunteers who really care about our club, a broad membership and an established and embedded fund-raising psyche. Whilst every year may be a challenge, we are still able to invest in our playing environment, our social facilities and our coaching. How a club can do this whilst leaking out cash every week to its players is beyond me – it just doesn’t pass the sustainability test.
Covid-19 has certainly highlighted how many clubs are living hand-to-mouth. In such a position, the damming of any revenue streams for a short period will have a pretty immediate impact on liquidity and bring survival into sharp focus. At Lymm we are by no means immune, having to cut our cloth significantly and ask our membership to rally round. However, I’m confident that we will survive this test and, quite possibly, emerge stronger for the experience, our principles and business model intact. As we sit today though, success is probably mere survival!
Andy Leach, Treasurer, Lymm RFC Limited
Travel back to move forward
Lymm RFC has done brilliantly to maintain its status in North Premier for the last 11 seasons, running the playing side on a totally amateur basis, as it always has been.
Many older clubs, which for years had a higher status than Lymm, have come and gone, often because of making the mistake of paying players, and yet we always finish mid-table, mostly! From a location point of view, although it was great to meet good guys from Alnwick, Morpeth and Billingham, it would make more sense to have most matches and local derbies in the North West.
The travelling aspect is a major issue, obviously with respect to costs, but also players’ time. When we were playing, the club used to be our social world, but it has not been the case with more recent generations, unfortunately. There would still be opportunities for ‘late stays’ in Cumbria, but the most important factor for me is to get all clubs in the same league being run on the same amateur basis, simple as that.
I get the feeling that more and more clubs are coming to the same conclusion, and, along with the repercussions of Covid-19, this outcome will hopefully be sooner rather than later.
After the daft decision by the RFU in 1995 to allow anyone, from Toc H to Harlequins, to pay players, we may well be finally getting somewhere near a level playing field, and ours is more level than most….
Steve Ashall, Lifelong member of Lymm RFC