Zone 9 - Sydney Northern District Bowls
IF YOUR CLUB IS STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE, MERGING COULD BE THE ANSWER
TO MERGE OR NOT TO MERGE … THAT IS THE QUESTION
BY LINDFIELD ROLLERS BOWLS SECRETARY, PHIL LEWIS
THE LINDFIELD ROLLERS BOWLING CLUB is progressing well following the merger of the Roseville Rollers with Lindfield Bowling Club. All members have now been issued with new club uniforms (both men and women have the same uniform … and why not since they are all the one club). The club now counts around 150 bowlers in its ranks and has been averaging in excess of 60 bowlers every Wednesday and Saturday. With the exception of Association events all play at Lindfield Rollers is open … i.e. men and women together (which in this day and age is a reflection of what life in the real world is all about).
BEFORE THE MERGER both clubs had their own issues to deal with and future projections for each club were not promising.
ROSEVILLE had a strong base of members and regularly attracted 40 to 50 bowlers each bowling day and were breaking even financially however upon a realistic assessment of its long-term business plan it became obvious that in a few years things would not be so good. The following factors were taken into consideration:-
- Recruitment of new members was not keeping pace with the attrition of existing members who had either left the club, stopped bowling or reduced the regularity of their attendance. Accordingly, the number of active members was slowly sliding.
- Fewer active members created greater pressure on those members that volunteered to carry out the necessary functions entailed in running a bowling club. The call on a small group of members to be available to open and close the club was also a large imposition on those members.
- Costs were steadily increasing whilst the club’s income base was shrinking.
- A number of the club’s members were quite elderly and hence limited in the level of their contribution to the effective running of the club.
- Beyond a few small sponsorships the club had no real non-bowls income to speak of. Its clubhouse was located in a residential area and totally surrounded by houses which was a significant restriction to any activities beyond bowls. It had no bar-trade beyond trading on bowls days.
- It was located on Council land and accordingly had no security of tenure should Council’s attitudes to community sporting groups change. It can be difficult to justify why a sizeable public asset (3 greens, a clubhouse and parking for over 50 cars) should be used exclusively by a small group of about 100 people only two days a week whilst other sports and special interest groups are crying out for facilities.
- The clubhouse was 65 years old and would have required significant capital expenditure over the coming years. Seventeen steps to gain entry, a domestic kitchen and downstairs toilets limited its functionality.
LINDFIELD had seen its membership base significantly dwindle over the previous few years and was running out of volunteers to keep the club functioning effectively. With its numbers having depleted it had, in effect, lost its critical mass and as a result found it very difficult to attract new members. With fewer members the variation in games and opponents became a limiting factor to the enjoyment of the game and also impacted on the club’s ability to conduct its own competitions and participate in external competitions. Beyond the shortfall in membership the club had a number of key factors in its favour including:-
- Ownership of the property
- Significant non-bowls income (Telstra tower and Bridge Club rental)
- Predominantly level block of land with a large, well equipped, clubhouse
- Three competition standard greens and parking (on and offsite) for 150 cars
- A live-in caretaker to open and close the clubhouse
RESULTING FROM THE MERGER overall expenditure on duplicated major items such as greenkeeping, council rates, insurance, water and power supply have basically been halved. Rental of the Roseville property is no longer payable. In rough figures this equates to a saving something in the order of around $120,000 per year. The club now has a large group of active bowlers ensuring a wide and varied mix of games and a much larger field of entrants for club competitions. The club is now also more easily able to field teams to compete in external competitions without worrying about denuding its own operations.
THE DECISION TO MERGE and pick up stumps was not an easy one for the Roseville members, particularly for some long-standing members who had dedicated many years of their lives to the running of their club. It was necessary to separate emotions from economics and objectively concentrate on the business practicalities. The major asset of the Roseville club was its members rather than any tangible items such as buildings, property, equipment or finances. Because the club chose to merge, all its members moved across to the new club and were able to maintain the close friendship bonds that they had enjoyed previously. The members of each club have melded together well and everything seems to be working nicely. Every bowling day is now vibrant and interesting and more often than not players are drawn to play with people they have never played with before. Anyone visiting the club now sees greens full of players decked out in the same uniforms having a great time and cannot help but be impressed. By having once again attained a critical mass it will be much easier for Lindfield Rollers to attract new members and rekindle interest in the sport.
Perhaps it would be opportune for some clubs to look at the success of the Lindfield Rollers merger, to swallow their pride and look seriously at their long-term business outlook.