Chippenham RFC

Chippenham gets fully integrated

Open Solutions provides the best EPoS solution for rugby clubs, while FSI provides the best membership administration solution. But what happens when you integrate them? Charles de Haan finds out from Chippenham RFC’s Steve Whitehead.

One of the leading rugby clubs in Dorset/Wiltshire, Chippenham RFC has over 800 members (including some 300 Minis) and some of the best facilities for playing and socialising: 22 acres of pitches, two floodlit, and a spacious modern clubhouse with a large bar and function room, a fully equipped meeting room facility, and parking for up to 250 cars.

 

Membership is sub-divided into 11 categories: Senior, Student, University Part Time, Junior and Mini, Family and Vice President, plus Non Playing, Social, Touch Rugby, and a Summer membership, all with varying fees and privileges for partners, children, matches, voting status and so on.

Administrating and updating these categories, especially at renewal time, is a potentially massive task.

 

The clubhouse ie. bar, catering, room hire and so on, represents another major income source for the club. This needs completely accurate, up to date and readily available information if its potential is to be maximised by Chippenham’s one full time employee, bar manager Sam White.

 

Club Secretary Phil Read handles the membership side, supported by long term member Steve Whitehead. Thanks to Steve’s IT background, Chippenham has long recognised the value of technology in helping the club’s decision makers and volunteers manage the club’s operation. For many years Chippenham’s used Access based database software for handling its membership, and in 2013 it acquired a modern Electronic Point of Sale system (EPoS) from Open Solutions. Including a separate e-mail system, the club was operating up to three databases, risking duplication and errors.

 

GMS: delivering on expectations

Steve has long seen the need to get everything online and fully integrated, so when the RFU commissioned the Game Management System (GMS) in 2017 from First Sports International, it promised to deliver what he wanted, because amongst other things GMS is designed to let every member access and update their own data online, thereby making a huge contribution to a club’s GDPR compliancy as well.

 

With its own e-mail system, GMS makes things like mailing renewals to members a far easier and simpler operation. As Steve will attest, because it’s simple to enable an e-mail to include a link to a member’s invoice, it’s easy to generate one e-mail for a family of up to six club members, a feature that cuts down admin and makes things easier for everyone.

 

Integrating the right EPoS system

From Steve’s perspective, all GMS needed now was an EPoS system that used the same database and then Chippenham would have a solution to all its management information, administrative, bar and catering, and bookings needs.

 

So when it was announced in late 2017 that FSI and Open Solutions were going to work together to develop one fully integrated package, Steve was delighted but also knew it would be a major task for the two providers to arrive at a solution that met everyone’s expectations.

 

Nonetheless Steve ensured Chippenham was selected as one of the first clubs to be part of the beta trial. Steve’s IT recruitment background gives him a privileged perspective on the two software providers: “Having met the people from both FSI and Open Solutions who were tasked with sorting it all out, I could see they really knew what they were talking about. So I was very reassured they would deliver the package and the features that the beta clubs wanted.”

 

Proof of the GMS and EPoS integration benefits, especially GDPR

The system’s delivering all sorts of new benefits, according to Steve: “Having installed the new fully integrated package, we’re now in a position to do all our renewals in September.”

 

“The GDPR point’s worth emphasising as well. With one database and its own e-mail system, I can send one e-mail asking each and every member to check that their data’s up to date ie. contact details, status, medical conditions, etc. So our 800+ members then go online and check their own data is correct. That’s not only the ideal way to keep the club’s database as clean as possible, but GMS provides a significant contribution to our GDPR compliancy.

 

“Furthermore, all the members’ bar card details are now in the same GMS database, so members can top up their cards online whenever and wherever they want. Instead of holding up the bar to top up, they can do it at home or in the office and come fully loaded ready to pay. They can do the same for match fees on a weekly, monthly or annual basis.”

 

Renewals: one less headache

Steve’s particularly pleased with the impact on the annual renewals process: “Historically this has always been a massive headache every year due to its volume and complexity. Our new GMS/EPoS package means the club can now send just one e-mail to members with families - and that can mean several different memberships – listing each one with a hyperlink to the renewal invoice for each member. That makes the renewal administration much easier and faster for both club and members.”

 

“We can check and record every payment, compile a report automatically and know exactly where things stand in terms of who’s paid, and who hasn’t. So with faster online payments via the GMS transaction system, the club’s financial position is strengthened much more quickly.”

 

Improved e-mail system

Steve comments: “Confident that it’s correct, I can now send mails to everyone, or to groups according to whichever filter I want to set up. So can each of the coaches to their particular squads and players. That represents a massive time saver for all those involved in this aspect of the club.”

 

Keeping pace with online lifestyles

Steve’s delighted with the improvements for all the members: “With GMS and the EPoS integrated, our members can now pay online for everything: membership renewals, functions, match fees, kit, topping up their card based bar accounts and so on. That means Chippenham’s keeping pace with modern lifestyles by enabling our members to do things online, especially booking and paying. It’s much easier and they can do it anytime and anywhere that’s convenient.”

 

The advantages of Open Solutions’ EPoS system

Chippenham’s retained all the advantages that came with the original EPoS system, as he explains: “By using cards that identified each member and their account, the EPoS system transformed the management of our bar sales: members no longer had to remember to bring enough cash! Putting money on their bar cards made spending much easier, and improved the club’s cash flow position.”

There’s no problem with underage drinking either, as Steve explains: “Our EPoS system automatically safeguards children by recognising Juniors and U18s, and the parents can both check and top up their children’s cards easily as well, which keeps them in complete control.”

 

Well done, the RFU

Steve’s fulsome in his praise for the RFU too: “The development of GMS has been paid for by every clubs’ affiliation fees, and in return every club can gets GMS FOC. Yes, the clubs have to pay for the EPoS part of it, but that’s a no brainer with the EPoS system’s advantages over stand alone tills.”

 

“Everything to do with the GMS/EPoS package is fully data protected within the software, so while the RFU can see everything, and I as a club administrator can see everything to do with Chippenham RFC, each member only has access to their own data. The RFU has the universal rugby member database it wanted, while the clubs retain control over their own local databases – and every member has complete control over their own data.”

Steve summarises: “However you look at it, if clubs want to be more efficient, cut down all that admin, save their volunteers’ time, keep up with modern lifestyles and strengthen their bottom line, acquiring and using the integrated GMS and EPoS system is a no brainer for every rugby club.”