Before the game became commercial, rugby clubs had to find the cash to keep going each season.
There was only a certain amount you could charge the players and supporters – the rest had to come from a range of ever more contrived methods of fund raising.
This wasn’t true for all clubs of course, there were any number of posh outfits who had alicadoos who probably worked in the city and used expensive advisors to avoid paying tax which the rest of us couldn’t afford (the tax or the advisors). They could then afford to donate generously to their old boy ‘rugger’ club rather than help pay for the NHS (bitter and cynical, me?).
Posh twats always refer to our great game as ‘rugger’ – I imagine this is because it rhymes with bugger and reminds them of their time boarding at public school!
True story – I once had an interview where the bloke looked at my CV and said “so you’re a rugger bugger then” – I didn’t get the job and have always felt rather relieved (no – not in that way!)
Unfortunately Askeans didn’t fall into this category (city sponsors not the buggering obviously) and so we had to find the money in a more practical way.
I can’t remember just how match the annual subscription was when I started – I think it was about £15 and £10 for students but I may be wrong. I know it doesn’t sound much now and that you were always given time to pay – much like criminal fines (this is from watching ‘The Bill’ not personal experience!).
Having said that I had just started work up in London for the princely sum of £16 a week.
“You were lucky – we lived in a cardboard box and only had gravel for breakfast in the morning”
“What every morning? – luxury!”
After the game one player (usually the youngest or most stupid – so lots of choice) was designated to collect the subs – again I forget how much but about £2 sounds about right. This covered the match fee, shirt washing (in top sides only), ref’s expenses and beer kitty.
Whilst the annual subs helped the running of the club the match collection didn’t go that far – about as far as the bar normally, as I remember, in order to fill the watering cans. A lot of refs generously waived their expenses and this was immediately donated straight into the plastic containers in the form of more beer.
I do recall when I had to collect the match fee (being consistently stupid) I always seemed to end up with little left after the cans had been filled several times – the residue was given to the captain and he never seemed too surprised that the money for the club had been wisely invested over the bar.
So, to keep up the facilities at Kidbrooke, the running of the bar and the ground (plus the less than expected contributions from the match fees) we had to raise a lot more dosh.
These were mostly the traditional methods – Christmas raffles, Smoking concerts, dances (or discos as we called them). I was persuaded (probably by the front row mafia) to run the Christmas raffle one year and used the promotions department at Brooke Bond to acquire some prizes at a substantial discount – a couple of them at 100% knock down! We made more than usual that festive season. This was further boosted on Christmas Eve at the club when I was again ‘persuaded’ to do a stint behind the bar – it was as you’d expect chaos but I came upon the bright idea (my only one ever) of only serving those who also bought raffle tickets. This did little for my already questionable popularity but certainly boosted the takings ahead of the prize draw!
The traditional jumble sales were held – I have no idea if they raised much except possibly hoots of derision as many of my so called mates thought it was the best place for me to add to my wardrobe (so Airdy wasn’t the first to point out my lack of sartorial elegance).
I’ve already covered (although the nubile nurses weren’t) the dances in an earlier post – again I suspect it was the bar takings rather than the door that was the most lucrative (especially as Mini and Mark B gave free tickets to anything in a skirt – Jocks excluded obviously).
Chunky also installed jackpot fruit machines in the bars and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these weren’t the biggest source of income that the club ever enjoyed (whilst the punters didn’t as for some reason they rarely appeared to pay out much).
One of the more innovative ideas was the installation of a couple of squash courts – to increase club membership and the bar takings on orange squash (funny lot racket players).
There was a wall in front of the courts and many of us sponsored a brick (what were we thinking) which our names were carved into.
I think the idea was to eventually pay back this sponsorship but since the bastards at the OA association flogged the ground from under the rugby club I imagine that Charlton Park (who bought it on the cheap) are unlikely to offer me a refund. Maybe I’ll just ask for my fucking brick back – if we all did that the whole building might collapse and that would be worth the price of the brick in the first place!
At one time I think one of the courts was converted into a gym for the players – I can’t confirm this since I obviously avoided going anywhere near it just in case it was true!
On at least two occasions we held Donkey Derbies at the ground and these attracted a fairly decent crowd and I guess some fair contributions from our traveller friends who brought in stalls where the prizes were only marginally more frequent than the fruit machines in the bar. It was sometimes hard to tell who the real donkeys were!
We did of course benefit from some very generous benefactors to the club – mostly these were guys who ran their own successful businesses and added to the income to help fund away trips and ground improvements. The club will always be grateful to guys like Chunky, Graham, Graham Briggs and Jeff Woollen – I’m sure there were many others too – and I apologise for leaving anyone out.
There were rumours that some funds also went the way of attracting playing talent but I’m sure this was a malicious suggestion by one of our rivals.
At some point sponsorship came in and local companies would have their names emblazoned on the team strip so that the few sods (and their dogs) who had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon would rush out to buy an electric cocktail shaker or some extra building supplies.
I always thought that our 7s team should have been sponsored by Winalot!
There was some income from car parking, selling programmes and advertising in said programmes but I’m not sure it came to a great deal.
I can’t leave the subject of fund raising without mentioning the brilliant innovation of after match raffles. I know it doesn’t sound all that revolutionary but the way we did it was I can assure you.
I think it might possibly have started when Chunky was captain – after the game the 1st XV would be charged with selling raffle tickets to as many people as possible – but concentrating on the opposition, their supporters and the ref.
It was something like 20p each or 6 for a strip for a £1 – sometimes we’d make a special offer of maybe 20 tickets for a £1 or even 30 if someone was being reluctant to purchase.
You see it really didn’t matter because there were no prizes!
When they inevitably left the clubhouse and asked if the raffle had been drawn we’d tell them not yet and get them to leave their telephone numbers – and let’s be fair the more naïve ones could still be waiting for that call even now! I think I may have already mentioned this wheeze in an earlier post – but it certainly merits repetition!
The only cost to us was a big pile of ticket books (I suspect even these came free from Carousel) and the rest went to boost the tour fund.
All rugby clubs below the Premiership need lots of support from the members and to find ways of raising cash (preferably legally or close to it) – Askeans were pretty successful in my time.
In fact I’m rather surprised we didn’t take the non-prize raffle to the Dragon’s Den – it was certainly an idea that had a very healthy profit margin and might even have put a smile on the face of that miserable bunch!