For years now (generations), rugby clubs and their social clubs have been synonymously linked, but perhaps now would be a good time to question if there are valid, commercial and sustainable logic behind the reasons for the practice.
The argument goes that rugby guys like a beer after the game, so why not have the rugby club run its’ own bar so the money is kept in the rugby club rather to some local hostelry who will keep the profit for itself.
I’m not sure how legitimate this argument was back in the day, and what funds it actually generated that could be reinvested into rugby development, but it certainly has been less relevant over the past couple of decades, with rugby clubs having to subsidies social clubs that are increasingly becoming less relevant to their local communities, never mind the actual guys who pull on a shirt on a weekend.
Take this Saturday as an example – two teams at home for 2pm kick-off (approx. 65 players), but by 5.30 there were two players left in the bar, both drinking juice, not beer – there were however three other folk drinking beer.
The myth about the social clubs importance isn’t just something perpetuated by rugby club committees looking to maintain their own personal social club, it’s one encouraged by the Union at Murrayfield.
At their Club Conference in September, the only ideas provided to Clubs by the Union for increasing revenue was to sell more beer, or to find ways to increase the profit margin on it.
However after reading the article from the British Beer & Pub Association that there’s been a 3.6 per cent drop in the third quarter beer sales, I’m not sure how sustainable the wider alcohol retail market is.
If the market as a whole saw a 3.6% drop in beer sales, would rugby clubs have faired any better in their niche market? Maybe, maybe not – but it’s time for rugby clubs (and the SRU) to stop kidding themselves and realise that running a bar based around a rugby club is a money pit and not a profit centre.