At last week’s board meeting we continued working on our 2021 Development Plan with the focus this week on Facilities. Sometimes it feels that you are simply throwing good money after bad in the continual aim of keeping the ground safe and up to standard. At times is seems that we are simply standing still at best, but during our review we recognised we have made progress with refurbishment beneath the stands of the kitchen, boardroom and changing rooms and we have introduced WiFi throughout the ground. This in turn has allowed the introduction of electronic ticketing and entry. This could prove particularly useful as there may well be an increased need for electronic ticketing in these COVID times so that numbers are potentially limited in the ground and within certain sections.
Looking to the future the board recognises that the stadium is not fit for our future aspirations. It is a slow process but we have genuine aims to continue to build solid foundations, increase income streams in a sustainable manner and gradually improve the team’s quality so that we are in a position to be fighting with the best in the Championship for a place in Super League.
In our last Development Plan we stated that we had an open mind around the location of Barrow Raiders but if we are going to realise our dreams then we need a stadium fit purpose; whether that is a complete overhaul of the current facility or relocation.
If we are to remain on the current site even in the medium term, then the board understands the improvements that are needed. The Raiders Bar does not have the capacity to bring in the income streams even if it was simply match-day turnover we were interested in. A new hospitality facility would be close to the top of our wish list as this is also income generating.
As our off-field team continues to expand we also see a lack of office and educational space and we are hamstrung when it comes to putting on festival days of rugby by only having two changing rooms. We have formed a great relationship with the Barrow Ladies team, and we hope that they continue to share our facilities but the least we can do is offer them somewhere to change and shower.
We also feel that we don’t sell enough on match days and again providing more income generating facilities could pay for themselves very quickly. Our souvenir hut, whilst functional, doesn’t allow shoppers to browse or even see the items for sale and this could be a massive area of improvement with the right facility. Catering for those supporters who like to watch from the stand side must also be a priority and I like the American model of selling whereby the product goes to the crowd rather than the crowd to the product. Why not have waiting staff servicing the crowds?
As ever there is a difficult balancing act. Our priority has to be that the stadium is safe and there are a number of actions in the programme that eats in to the budget to simply tread water and then we must try to generate excess funds in order for our aspirational actions to come to fruition. In these COVID times and a budget deficit of six figures for next season we clearly won’t be able to work at the pace we want to. Our absolute first priority is to ensure the continued existence of the club and from there we need to balance team quality against the improvement in facilities. It’s safe to say that the Board of Directors, for the majority of the last 90 years, has prioritised the team and it is now it is up to the current board whether they want to break with tradition. If we hope to have Super League dreams then that break with tradition must start, however slowly, and our facilities must improve whether at Craven Park or elsewhere.