How to grow your club

Whether your club needs new members – or has a long waiting list that it can’t get through – we have some practical solutions.

Peter Gore knows all about growing a sports club: as Deputy Junior Chairman of Bolton Rugby Union Football Club he’s seen under 16 membership increase by a third in just a season. Peter is a real expert at attracting more people – both volunteers and players – into the game. Below are his tips on how you can grow your club.

Sport England's Club Matters

External Resources

Peter’s tips are a great starting point. For detailed guidance on how to grow your club membership you should head to Club Matters, Sport England’s one stop shop providing free, convenient, practical resources to help you develop and run a sustainable club.

- Grow with Club Matters↑
 Peter Gore
Peter Gore
Volunteer at Bolton Rugby Club

Connecting with your local community

Getting more members can seem like a huge challenge, but there are lots of easy, straightforward ways to get new people through your doors.

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1) Host an event to invite new people to the club.

  • An open day or taster session can be a great way to welcome many different kinds of people to the club. We held a Junior Open Day last year, which attracted 50 volunteers and 200 young people playing – overall, it brought in more than 50 new players to the club.
  • You might want to use your club as a venue, but it’s worth thinking about other locations that members of your local community might be more familiar with. For example, we got permission to use our local Town Hall to attract new people and encourage them to give rugby a go. Could you try something similar? Getting your event in the the local paper will also help draw more people – it's a great way to shine a light on your sport and club. Read Join In's handy tips on working with the local media. And check out these ideas on how to run a successful event.
 
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2) Visit local schools. They're a great source of new players.

  • Search. Do a quick internet search in your area for schools – and then start getting in contact with them to introduce your club. They may let you come down to PE lessons, or to give a demonstration of your sport at an assembly.
  • Start small. Build relationships and a reputation for reliability.
  • Coaches. If you have any coaches who are out of work, make sure that they are on the local Council sporting register and that their coaching badges are up-to-date. You could then offer their services in schools.
  • Age ranges. Many primary schools receive government funding which must be spent on sporting activities – so you could charge them, perhaps just to cover your costs. When it comes to high schools, you could look to secure grants to pay for your coaches' time, or find a benefactor.
  • Engage. Introduce schoolchildren to your club by inviting them to one of your sessions. We have special “You’ve been spotted” cards, which our coaches can give out to those we feel are either talented or will gain from rugby. The card lets the young person come along to a junior or senior game, and get a free soft drink and bag of crisps or equivalent.
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3) Try to make your club stand out from the crowd.

  • Find alternative takes and adaptations on your sport which may have a greater appeal to different audiences. For instance, we have introduced Touch Rugby, which has seen an increase in our female membership.
  • Look for exciting opportunities to offer something back to your members. For example, this is a great year for rugby and we were able to coordinate the Rugby World Cup 2015 Ambassadors for Bolton RUFC – and arranged for two local high schools to attend England RUFC training in Leeds.
  • It takes time to build relationships and it's not always easy, especially if you are stretched with time and money. But it's always worth making your club known to professional teams nearby. Find out if they work with local clubs, for example, and make sure your club is involved. Thanks to our close relationship with Sale Sharks, over 100 Bolton RUFC members have been fortunate enough to visit a Sale Sharks game.
Remember if you’re going to get more members, you’re probably going to need more volunteers to support them! Did you know that just one extra volunteer gives your club the capacity to take on 8.5 new members? If you haven’t already, create your free Join In club page today to find the support you need.
Remember too to tell your club members about your current situation. Say that you’re oversubscribed and can’t support the demand for new players. If you let people know what you need help with, you may find some willing helpers. We have some more ideas on how to find new volunteers here.
Another thing to think about alongside membership is facilities. Whether you own, rent or use free facilities, the physical space and the amount of equipment and kit you have can be a huge factors in terms of membership limits. Club Matters↑ has lots of helpful support on how to improve your club, including its facilities, and there are more stories of Join In clubs that have improved their facilities here.