The work on our 2021 development plan continued at the last board meeting, this time focussing on our Community team. It was fair to say that when the club fully got behind this initiative almost two years ago it could have been seen by many as a gamble. With no income streams except some schools offsetting some of the wage bill it was a massive commitment for the club.
However, I think it is fair to say that even the most ardent sceptic can now see the benefits brought to the club and the town. Barrow Raiders board obviously want the club to grow but we are also fully committed to improving the town and the many community initiatives we have introduced is massively helping the wellbeing of the local public.
We made it our mission in 2020 to grow our crowds and the fact that 12,000 season tickets found their way to every schoolchild in South Cumbria was expected to be a great success. We all know what happened next with the complete shutdown of League One Rugby, but we plan to repeat that exercise in 2021 and continue to grow the crowds. Growing the crowds must be our number one priority and the community programme complements that aim. We plan to invite numerous community groups throughout next season as our guests and we want them to take the bait and get hooked on our great game for life.
We have talked before about making the visit to the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium a day out for all the family and we plan to make match days a whole day of entertainment. We will be encouraging Schools and community groups to make use of our pitch for pre, mid and post-match activities. Secondary spend is so important these days and we need to make sure that our merchandise and food and drink sales are able to meet the increased demand.
Growing crowds is so important in many other ways too in terms of attracting sponsors and attracting broadcast partners. It is so much easier on the eye if you were to watch a game with a great atmosphere and thrilling, competitive rugby league to boot. Having spectators leave the ground enthused at what they have just witnessed gets them returning for more. My personal addiction can be charted back to the late 70s and early 80s when average crowds were above 4000 and even to this day, I crave the return of those sort of numbers. I am now in the privileged position of being able to put plans in place to address this.
Whilst the link with growing crowds is most certainly an aim of the community team, they have also done some fantastic work in terms of building the health and fitness of the local public. In fact, despite the intervention of COVID, they have more than delivered the 2020 action plan. They have established fitness sessions with people with learning difficulties, introduced Rambling Raiders, Raid Runners, Walking Rugby, Read with a Raider in Primary Schools, Raider Girls, working with the Crime commissionaire with Raiders on the Road, established sport leadership programmes, helped deliver our JETS programme and are fully committed to growing the game at the community level. All of this work has attracted grants and sponsorship of significant sums as we have proven our delivery. 2021 will add to and improve our delivery and hopefully if charitable status is achieved we will continue to grow the community team and with it our club and town.