Dorking RFC

Dorking RFC: smarter technology is part of this club’s success

Dorking RFC is run by volunteers, yet it handles all the latest complexities of administrating 1,200 members. This includes generating all the RFU required player data, organising several successful rugby teams and festivals, while its EPoS system enables the club’s decision makers to maximise the bottom line potential of its bar income. How do they do it? Charles de Haan investigates.

Formed in 1921, Dorking RFC is a leading Surrey club, run for the whole community with no less than five Senior teams, a thriving Youth & Mini section of over 500 children made up of Youth (U18-U15), Midi (U15-U12), Minis (U11-U5), and a Girls (U11-U18) section.

Years of dedication and hard work on and off the pitch have been rewarded by unprecedented levels of success in recent seasons, an achievement made even more remarkable by the fact that the club is charity run and none of the players receive payment from the club. The 1st XV currently plays rugby in London & South East Premier. Dorking RFC has four rugby pitches for its matches, and two floodlit training pitches. There are also three football pitches. The club works closely with a number of local schools, and it’s also home to one of the largest rugby festivals in the country, the Dorking Mini Festival which hosts over 2,500 children and parents each March, demonstrating the club’s strong family ethos and its commitment to youth rugby for all age groups. So far, so good, but when you’ve got over 1,200 members of every age group, when your clubhouse and bar is effectively only geared up for six months’ business in a year, and the club’s run by volunteers, how do you maximise the potential of that kind of business model, let alone handle the very real complexities of the membership side of things?

Getting the right technology: GMS and EPoS

One of the hard working volunteers helping DRFC run successfully is Deputy Chairman & Membership Secretary Nick Smith. Some years ago, to facilitate the increasingly complex needs of membership administration – building and updating a single database of members’ details, subscriptions, RFU player data etc. - for well over 1,200 members, the club took the decision to rely entirely on the RFU’s Game Management System (GMS) as developed and managed by First Sports International (FSI). The GMS enabled the efficient, and from Nick’s perspective, easier compliance with the RFU’s increasingly demanding player data requirements, handling the ticketing arrangements for the RFU controlled home and international matches, and so on. In Nick’s own words ‘It improved everything!’ GMS has also given every member the ability to log in to the DRFC membership system online and update their own details easily, saving what would otherwise be a massive database cleaning task every year.

With 1,200 members, GMS has not only made membership administration far less onerous and time consuming, but it also gives every team coach complete accuracy regarding both potential and available players. Member input of their own details also reduces data error and ensures Dorking RFC’s database is up to date for minimal outlay and effort.

As Nick says:

“We’re using GMS extensively, especially when it comes to their system for membership subscription payments. These involve both a lot of families and individuals, plus various built-in discounts and, as we’ve found, a major flurry of updating and payment activity in the summer and early autumn.”

He continues:

“Now that FSI and Open Solutions are forming a strategic partnership, I’m very much looking forward to the full integration of GMS and the EPoS technology, and that together they deliver a series of new and useful benefits and advantages for volunteer run clubs like Dorking RFC.”

Open Solutions EPoS: improving both bottom line & membership services

Focusing on improving the club’s bar management and its profitability as an additional income stream, Nick led a project to implement a replacement for the club’s tills and operating system and to implement ‘smart’ membership cards.  The project team considered a number of options but ultimately selected the market leading and highly versatile EPoS system from business solutions provider Open Solutions in the Summer of 2016. 

The club’s goals for the new EPoS were to enable the issue of perpetual membership smart cards (sourced from another local company, Ashley Forms) which are loaded with funds and provide discounts to members. In addition, the club wanted to bring the bar stock-keeping, financial reporting and records up to date and improve the service offered to members. The club can now identify the percentage of members using the Club regularly, along with their typical bar spend per visit and over a season, and get a better idea of the highest spends and what the actual and average spend was.

This meant replacing the club’s three old stand-alone tills with four of the latest EPoS tills that would run Open Solutions’ EPoS software. Members were issued with their own smart loyalty cards, so that they could place money on their own bar accounts and spend it accordingly when they came to the club i.e. on training nights and match days, along with other social occasions and events.  The cards themselves offered an opportunity for promotion of one of Dorking RFC’s very supportive Partners, whose financial contribution was earmarked for the project in return for their logo being featured on the reverse of every membership card.

The only full-time DRFC employee is bar and facilities manager Nicky Brown; the new EPoS meant she could set up differential pricing, so that a) members received a 10% discount on production of their club loyalty cards, while b) the club’s many visitors paid the going RRP for drinks and snacks. Dorking RFC members aren’t asked to place a minimum amount on their cards, yet despite the 10% discount on drinks’ prices and with only 25% of the membership using their loyalty cards, the amounts placed still generate £2,000 to £3,000 positive cash flow in the club’s bank balance and account for around 50% of bar takings.

The smart cards will also soon allow online top-ups to be made by members via DRFC’s website or an App, so that they can always make sure there’s enough in their bar accounts before they set out to the club. While only 25% are using their loyalty cards, the EPoS technology and card readers allow the growing use of debit cards, helping the club become increasingly cashless. That in turn is reducing the number of visits to the bank and the amount of cash carried each time, another advantage when the UK’s retail banks are closing local branches all around the country.

Installation and training ‘very smooth’, just a couple of days
The switch from old stand-alone technology to new EPoS technology and all the product and pricing data uploading that entails, was in fact very smooth. Cabling for the new tills had already been installed making it straightforward to set them up. In fact with Open Solutions setting up all the products and pricing for the club, installation only took a couple of days. 

This included training which Nick described as something that went very well, given that bar manager Nicky Brown has a squad of up to 10 temporary staff to run the bar, take orders and serve drinks. Nick noted: “The new EPoS system has proved easy for temporary staff to learn and use. The only difficulty is when committee members step in to help!”

In practice, taking orders and serving drinks has also become significantly faster, essential on match days when a bar goes from empty to maximum capacity the minute the game’s over.

Special promotions by suppliers

The EPoS system also helps the club set up special promotions whenever these are made available by suppliers. As Nick says: “We’ve had a number of special promotions and these have proven successful and, better still, easy to set up and analyse. It means that whenever we choose to take advantage of a supplier promotion, it’s much easier and simpler for us to do it.”

Support: ‘Very responsive’

Once a club’s purchased a system and it’s up and running, effective after-sales service – in other words, support – is crucial, especially for the bar manager and staff in the evenings and at the weekends. 

Nick comments:

“The support we get from Open Solutions is very responsive, given the bar’s usually operating late or out of hours compared to the normal nine to five. All we need to do is pick up the ‘phone and we’re talking to an expert who sorts things out for us there and then.”

Summary: flexible, good supportdelivers improvements, strengthens the bottom line
The acid test of any technology is: would you be happy to recommend it to other clubs? “Yes!” says Nick Smith. “GMS is pretty flexible and has improved our administration in many ways. We’re very happy with the Open Solutions’ EPoS system, it’s strengthening our bottom line and the support from both providers is very effective.”

Smith summarises:

“The integration of these two systems is much anticipated, as it should facilitate all sorts of new and additional advantages from our operational perspective. Staying ahead of the game both on and off the pitch is exactly where Dorking RFC needs to be.”