Business planning

Is balancing the books a continual uphill struggle for your club?

Would you like to put on lots of new initiatives but don’t have the cash?

Is it impossible to collect subscriptions from members?

Do you have difficulty setting out an overall plan for development?

In the current climate it is essential that all community rugby clubs plan their finances in advance. This sheet sets out a simple process to follow so that clubs can put together a simple business plan to:

  • structure ideas and plans
  • assess the management and organisation of the club
  • identify income and expenditure and deal with cash flow

More detail on putting together business plans for specific capital projects can be gained from Sport England. The following areas are essential to consider when putting together the business plan for your club.

What facilities or services do you offer?

You may feel that the essential business of your club is to offer services to the members – matches, training, coaching, equipment, social events. These will be backed up by a support structure involving information to members, facilities for changing, administration and publicity. However, consider also what you may be able to provide to the local community:

  • a meeting room or function room
  • coaching services in schools
  • a place to meet for local voluntary groups
  • car parking

How can you promote your club?

Often termed marketing, there should be a section of your business plan considering your strengths and weaknesses, and how you will promote rugby in competition with many other attractions in the area. Consider developing a consistent image or brand which will help to identify your club on everything that is produced.

How do you manage your club?

Typical volunteer run community clubs now need to carefully consider how to improve general management skills throughout the club. Many clubs have difficulty finding the volunteers with the right skills.

One option is to consider paying an administrator to help run the club efficiently and help create a welcoming environment and ensure members have ample opportunities to get involved in helping to run the club. A good administrator will be able to set up a rota for certain ‘essential jobs’ such as running the bar or collecting subscriptions. Often this is a better option than simply paying for specific services such as a catering contractor.

Another option is to contract out certain services, such as running the bar or grounds maintenance. This may reduce the number of free pints being given away, although you will need to split the bar income with the catering contractor. However, it is worth remembering that people are often prepared to pay slightly higher prices for a quality service. Your local authority may be able to give good advice on the advantages and disadvantages of a grounds maintenance contract.

However, remember the pitfalls of employing a bar manager. Club members may often feel that the bar manager is responsible, and they then distance themselves from doing anything to help run the club. With well organised rotas which do not put too much pressure on individuals, and joint responsibility from members, many clubs have found an increased community spirit and increased membership and turnover.


Setting budgets should be a regular practice at all clubs. Firstly, decide when your financial year should start and finish - most clubs use a year end between April and August to tie in with the season.

Expenditure headings such as staff, players wages (although we recognise that this will not apply to the majority of clubs reading this document), bonuses, grounds maintenance, clubhouse rent and rates, repairs, administration, equipment, junior development, coaching, etc need to be agreed and budgets set out for each area.

These should be reviewed throughout the season so that areas are not in danger of overspending. Targets for income should then be set, based on expected membership levels, spectators, sponsorship, bar and function room income and grants.

Cash flow forecasts are perhaps the most important area. There will be some periods during the season when your income drops, due perhaps to a lack of home games, or when you have particularly high bills to pay. It is essential that these times are planned for so that you can cover any deficit quickly. Try to ensure that subscriptions are paid at the beginning of the year or regularly throughout the season by direct debit. Remember to include VAT figures within the cash flow, showing when VAT is to be paid or refunded.

It is important to always have at least two people involved so that you can ensure cash is banked quickly, decisions are verified, and the chance of malpractice is reduced.