How to get more players at your grassroots football club

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The world is changing and your club must change with it

Community sports clubs are facing strong challenges in order to survive and grow in an increasingly competitive and demanding market. How to attract new members and retain the existing ones, become a hub of the community, grow sponsorship revenue, improve the social life of the club, increase media coverage, benefit from new technology and introduce new revenue streams...are all pressing concerns.

Other sports providers are also facing similar, significant challenges - how to deliver great sporting and consumer experiences in a welcoming and sustainable way.

But right now there are great opportunities for sports clubs to play a much stronger role in your local communities, benefitting your club, your sport and your community.

Community sport needs to adopt a new mindset and learn a new skill set - taking the best from successful social enterprises and the hospitality sector. It has to recognise that sport operates in the experience business and that it is competing for people's leisure time and money and has to attract people away from shopping centres, watching X-Factor, apathy, etc. by providing better experiences for each customer segment.

A business provides a service or product that has value to its customers. An exchange is taking place. Your club has to ask itself - what are you exchanging with your members? Great coaching, good social atmosphere, convenient location, a clean facility...these are some of the basics of the exchange. However, if a club in the same sport as yours opened next door and offered the same for less you would lose members.

The intangibles that tie a member to your club are very much relationship based, focused on people’s emotional engagement with your club. Your job is to develop this focusing on several areas:

  • Friendships

  • Opportunities for socialising

  • Personal interaction

  • A feeling of belonging

  • Being wanted and cared for

  • Feeling good and secure when they are in your club

Obviously, some people within your club are more tuned in to good customer service than others so getting everybody on board does not happen by itself. One method I know which works is to get your off-the-pitch team to think of your club as their home. Think of it like a visit to your house.

The bottom line is: Your club is in the experience business. You and your colleagues at your club need to think of yourselves as hosts and treat members, supporters, newcomers and regulars as guests who are visiting your house. Believe me, two things will happen: They will come back and you guys will really enjoy it.

Life is changing and as a provider, within community sport, you have to change with it, full stop. Or even better - if you listen to people and their lives you should be able to anticipate the changes in their needs and wants. You can then adapt your offering and service so you are always that half a step ahead.

24% of people in work in the UK work unsocial hours. Just consider if you work in the emergency services, NHS, leisure, hotels, pubs, restaurants or retail - how can you participate in a regular team sport, like football? I was talking to a 30-year old guy who works as a Duty Manager at Tesco. He is divorced with two kids and had to stop playing for the 2nd Team at his local rugby club because he simply could not fit training and playing into his work and responsibilities looking after kids every other weekend.

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