THE purpose of our recent Fans’ Forum at the Vestacare Stadium , hopefully the start of quarterly or half-yearly meetings of club representatives and supporters, was threefold:
- To inform and update fans about likely changes to the distribution of funding from the RFL that could adversely affect club finances going forward over the next few years.
- To tell fans how we intend to tackle this huge challenge head-on.
- To invite supporters to come forward with their own ideas and suggestions for increasing gates, income and public awareness of the club, its players, its coaches and its first-class mascot Roary the Roughyed.
The evening was led by Julie Collins, a marketing leader from Dukinfield, who “discovered” rugby league about about four years ago, fell in love with it and has been actively supporting our club for the past couple of years.
In much the same way that Anne Kearns has adapted brilliantly to the role of office manager and “front of house” during chairman Chris Hamilton’s recuperation from major heart surgery, Julie has been representing Roughyeds at RFL meetings and generally getting to grips with where the club stands now and where it needs to be in order to sidestep the potential hazards that lie ahead.
Both women have said publicly how much they have appreciated the warmth and generosity of rugby league people both in the sport generally and at Oldham in particular.
They are relative newcomers who believe passionately that the honesty and sportsmanship of rugby league players in a fiercely competitive and physical arena, allied to its ‘family game’ image among spectators, is the perfect mix to attract women of all ages.
They are convinced there are thousands out there who would immediately become ‘hooked’ if they were to be introduced to the sport either by chance, as they were, or by design.
Two or three years on they are excelling in lead roles at the Vestacare Stadium, fired by an infectious enthusiasm for all things Roughyeds and a burning desire to show, among other things, that York City Knights are not the only club who can make rapid and exemplary progress off the field in a very short time.
With Anne alongside her, Julie took centre stage at the public meeting to illustrate her presentation with Power-Point slides.
Not only would there be the likelihood of less money coming from central sources from 2021, but more immediately a reduction in the number of teams in Betfred League 1 from 14 to 11 would mean fewer home games and less income despite ever-increasing operational costs.
Distribution might even reduce gradually over the course of the next three years, placing even more relevance on the need to meet RFL criteria to qualify for additional hand-outs.
These included increased attendances, more social media activity and more income from off-field sources such as increased sponsorship and more special events.
Targets would include promotion next season; a big increase in twitter feeds, facebook activity, website visits etc; gate figures back to 2017 levels; the launch of a membership scheme; a 50 per cent increase in season-ticket sales; the launch of community and school initiatives; more commercial partnerships; and, on the back of all those, RFL recognition.
Julie went on to say that our web and social media guru Dave Naylor was examining ways of increasing activity on our social media platforms and the club would be looking at the possibility of launching a digital match-day programme.
The club was already involved with the Oldham School Pledge; a Raise-Our-Game initiative in conjunction with Failsworth High School; and a One Oldham initiative.
Oldham Rugby League Together will involve engagement with community clubs.
Fans were urged to consider at least some of the following ways in which they can help: