One of the most innovative and successful backgammon organisers in the UK is Richard Biddle. Peter Christmas wrote to Richard asking him for tips on setting up a club. Richard has kindly let us reproduce the email that he wrote to Peter below. It is full of great tips for starting and growing a backgammon club.
Richard Biddle writes…
If you were a member of or had access to a golf club, tennis, squash or bowls club or similar that would be the most obvious place to start a club as you could then easily contact all the existing members to see if any play BG and would probably welcome the increased bar revenue in their facilties. I started BucksGammon at my squash club and have since migrated to The Drawingroom. You shouldn’t have to pay to play anywhere as long as you are using the bar.
Otherwise, I would find a willing pub or licensed cafe open in the evenings, who would be willing to host a handful of BG players. It is important that the players do spend money in any venue. As desperate as you may be for players, you don’t really want anyone who is going to cling on to a half of lime and soda all night. I know there are some players who actually bring their own drinks or don’t buy anything at all. You don’t want them in your BG club.
You only want people who are prepared to support the venue, otherwise your fledgling club will soon find yourself homeless. Pubs a desperate for business but they don’t want freeloaders taking up space. Obviously ask the venue which is their quietest night rather than trying to do this on a busy Friday night. If they think BG is good for their venue, they will help you promote it, but they won’t if you are a bunch of cheapskates. If the venue is good, players will want to eat and drink there and everyone is happy so don’t pick any dives.
Now my attitude to starting a club from scratch, like I have done with BucksGammon, is that if I have one other person to play with, I have a successful BG club. Anyone else who comes along is a bonus. You grow from there.
If anyone else does come along, they may not want to play for money. My approach is to make all competitions free with optional pools for the experienced players, that way we do not scare off any players.
What you then need to do is be patient plus do a little free PR where possible. What do I mean about that.
So, having identified your venue, see what sort of promotion they can do, even if it is just sticking up a sign on a notice board, or chalk board etc. I would go with one night a month initially and always make it the same, ie last Monday of every month etc. So people know.
Hopefully you will have at least one other player who will show up with you. If you need to wait until the Winter to do this with your brother so be it. Or get one of your walkers to come and learn the game and drink beer. And you have to both show up every designated night at the same time, again and again, being patient….eventually players will come….a bit like fishing, put out the bait and wait. Obviously, you can each other play while you are waiting.
If you only have three players a good format is doubles/single round robin, where you take it in turns to play on your own against the other two. This is also quite educational for newer players. Or you can play a chouette if everyone is happy playing a quid a point. Eventually other people will take notice of the fun you are having and want to join in.
As more players arrive you can expand into single round robins, Swisses etc. Good software is www.challonge.com.
Make a website, even a simple one like www.bucksgammon.webs.com. It is important to give yourself a web presence so visiting players coming to the region show up. I had a very strong player from Belgium show up to BucksGammon because of my web site.
One thing that worked for me at BucksGammon was posting something on FB. Find local community pages like “Chichester Walkers” and post on their page. Post on your own FB timeline, get the word out there to everyone. The venue you are using may have an FB page, or twitter account. Doing this made a dramatic difference for me at BucksGammon and prompted the local paper to get in touch with me. They have since written two articles about BucksGammon. Every few months a do a little push on local social media.
Once you have four regular players, you have enough to start a league that creates further interest and stickibility. But that is the subject of a separate email.
One day I will move to Chichester or somewhere like that. All the steps I have given you, are what I will do to set up a club again myself come the time we move south.
Hope this helps, give me a shout if you have any questions. And remember, you only need one other player and you have a successful BG Club.