When a club has no beer to sell, things are clearly pretty dire.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg at Rowley Hill Club in Lepton, which has now turned a corner.
Jeff Jacklin and other club regulars battled to bring the 140-year-old club back from the brink of financial disaster. It’s now in rude health and its recent turbulent history has been chronicled in author Jeff’s new book which, he says, could be used by other clubs facing similar difficulties to avoid pitfalls and overcome obstacles.
Jeff’s 130-page book Six Weeks to Save Rowley Hill Club is subtitled: ‘A social club’s battle to stay in business.’
It charts the club’s fight for survival and covers the period August 2010 to March 2013, mainly concentrating on the first four months when, says Jeff, “things could so easily have gone belly-up with only one result.”
He explains how the club faced “a multitude of problems” that all manifested themselves at the same time. It makes for grim reading.
“Steward and stewardess retiring after 27 years service. President, secretary, treasurer and most of the management committee all standing down mid-year. Four years of trading losses, no cash in the bank, no beer to sell, membership dwindling and a tired-looking club facing the inevitable.
“The out-going committee forecast closure within six weeks. Could things get any worse? Well, they could and they did before things started to happen to address the problems.”
Using a combination of business acumen and sheer bloodymindedness Jeff, 70, a retired former NHS IT manager who previously worked at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, and his fellow committee members, reversed the club’s fortunes. In three years they went from debt to having £33,000 in the bank. It was, he says, nothing short of a miracle.
“There were lots of factors behind the club’s demise. The smoking ban, the club not serving food, the fact that we’re not on the main road.
“We’re a modest place close to a housing estate. We have a concert room and a tap room. But we serve good beer, we hold quiz nights and bingo, we have games teams. It’s a step back in time, really.
“We made some cock-ups along the way but we learned from them. The club was in debt when we took it on. Now it’s in rude health. It’s a community hub. We have 400 members.
“I wanted to capture those three years so there is something that people can look back on in time and know how close we came to closing. There was a lot of goodwill from the members. They all wanted it to succeed.”
The story of its resurrection and revival is on sale at the club, priced £5. It’s also available on Amazon as both a paperback and in Kindle format.
The author’s royalties will be donated to Kirkwood Hospice.