Campaigning for Clubs

Ruth was recently (May 2009) alerted to something very interesting on the web which feels like a call to action to keep clubland alive.  Below is an edited version of the ‘Encore’ Document, compiled by a group of very concerned people who are fed up with club closures and want to do something to help clubs survive.  The small taskforce who wrote this have ‘a vision of change that we would like to implement with a view to improving the working practices and the social environment within clubland.’

They write:
“From its busy heyday back in the 1960's the working men’s club has been the hub of the social network in working class areas throughout the country.  It has provided not only a social gathering place for the local community but also a base for union meetings, a community hall for local social groups, a place for the elderly to congregate, a venue for celebratory occasions, and a local meeting point for all ages to gather and converse about all aspects of life, the community, and the labour opportunities in the area.
Each club would have its own brand of philosopher, councillor, visionary, medical advisor, trade unionist, and the obligatory loose cannon.  It would be a general representation of the working class environment of which it was the hub.  You could gain advice on matters of the heart, working practices, financial opportunities and find out the best odds on the 2.15 at Haydock.  Socially the club was a hot potato wherein the local community would thrive and prosper within the security of its own environment and added to that you could drink cheap beer whilst watching top class entertainment.........” It does indeed sound like some form of utopia.   
They continue:
“A quick look around nowadays will have you wondering how such a perfect scenario could have fallen by the wayside so badly.  Somewhere along the way clubland has lost its identity, rather than being a thriving hub of the community clubland has now become a second class citizen rapidly approaching its bus pass and winter heating allowance.  So how did this happen?
Many factors have played a part in the decline:

    1.  The smoking ban
    “Undoubtedly the smoking ban has impacted massively on the falling attendances within our clubs.  Rather than being allowed "private club" status we were grouped in with shops, restaurants, shopping centres and the likes and faced an immediate and forcibly imposed absolute ban.  Our private status allowed us no special privileges nor were we allowed to implement a "smoking room" as in the old "tap room" days.  Had this been an option this room could today have been segregated from the rest of the club enabling both smokers and non smokers to stay within the club environment rather than being ostracized into the cold dark night that has become the "smoking area".  Further discussion and lobbying on this issue might have averted this kidney punch to clubland at the time, but we are still left with the option of lobbying for a repeal of the smoking ban within the clubs private status.”
    2.  Alcohol prices
     “Although clubs have always offered cheaper prices than the surrounding pubs and restaurants (and still do) the local supermarkets are now vastly undercutting anything the clubs can offer.  Certain clubs will find themselves tied to a certain brewery through financial obligations and as such will have little flexibility with which to compete.  Further factors such as "expected" cheap prices, and clubland being a victim of its own success mean that any rise in beer prices will have the members in uproar.  Added to this, falling attendances make it even harder to stay afloat in this time of "Sky television and cheap supermarket beer".  What with this and the smoking ban it’s almost as if the government is single-handedly trying to kill off the social scene!”
    3.  The local work situation
     “Local business has always been the driving force behind the local community and indeed the clubs depend on the members having revenue to socialise.  With the closure of much of the working man’s environment due to globalisation and government pressure (as with the coalmines) the labour environment has taken a blow and this has seriously affected clubs.”


Encore campaign logo

The group also point out that there are management issues as clubs are run mostly by committees consisting of volunteers who have increasingly to keep on top of legislation.  They are mostly not trained in the skills that are now required to run clubs as businesses, which is what they have become.  
The failure to attract the younger generation is also a problem. 
“An ability to adapt with the times and move forward with current trends has always been paramount in the prosperity of any business.  No-one in this day and age can afford to drop behind with new innovations and working practices.  Foresight leads to prosperity in all aspects of management and yet clubland has remained true to its roots in many areas -from the old-fashioned management ideas through to the interior decor, onward to the general clubland environment and practices.”

Young people are “surrounded by plasma screens, designer bottled beers and music innovations” but some clubs retain a traditional image that suits the older members, but doesn’t attract new ones so there isn’t the necessary influx of new younger members. 

The group who wrote this document would like to see some sort of "committee for change, to meet and liaise with the CIU and other local parties in order to put forward proposals and suggestions that could offer future prosperity to clubland rather than the steady decline which we now face.”

These are some of the points made.  You may agree or disagree with some or all of them but this articles does point out that there are problems out there and within clubland that need to be urgently addressed.  It indicates that the problems lie not only ‘out there’ but also within the club movement itself.  This website is dedicated to clubs and hopes to stimulate discussion and debate about their role not only the past but also in the future.  Not every one agrees about what clubs should or shouldn’t do or what they need to provide, and how.  But we do need to encourage discussion that might lead to some positive action!


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