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A Note From the CEO of Clubs NSW

This note is to update you on the measures ClubsNSW is taking to help clubs through the CV-19 crisis. There will be changes at your association as well as across the industry.


Helping You Through the Crisis

For some weeks the primary task of ClubsNSW has been to keep clubs informed: how to implement social distancing; how to ‘close down’ the club; and what the rules are around stand-downs and JobKeeper. 

We have been calling to check on CEOs, make sure they are ok, answer their questions and confirm they know the legal requirements. We issued the first-ever digital ClubLife (which had over 2,300 unique readers) and we have answered thousands of questions from members. 

I hope you feel we have helped you better navigate these unchartered waters and reduced anxiety in a particularly stressful time.

We have also worked to reduce the fixed costs that would have crippled clubs. We engaged with your major suppliers to seek fee waivers from Tabcorp, Foxtel, gaming machine suppliers and others. We have also been working with State and Federal Governments, getting a deferral of the March Quarter’s gaming machine tax and a waiver of the annual liquor licence fee as well as for payroll tax. We were particularly pleased with the Federal Government’s decision to provide JobKeeper payments. We will continue to push for Government fee relief because we know you have no revenue to offset costs.

When Can We Re-Open?

Now that clubs are settling in to the ‘new abnormal’, the question everyone wants answered is “when can we re-open our doors and trade again?” I wish we had a crystal ball to answer that. 

We think clubs should be able to open immediately in regions where there are no cases of CV-19. Our job, on your behalf, is to seek Government approval to re-open as quickly as possible. 

Our goal is to see clubs re-open sooner than other businesses – if they are willing to take a range of measures to operate safely. This may include taking temperatures at the entrance, requiring personal details to assist with contact tracing, enforcing social distancing or regular cleaning.

As you can see from the graph below, courtesy of CT Group, patrons are willing to return to venues if health experts say it is ok to do so. For that reason, we have developed a detailed plan outlining the steps clubs would have to take to ensure the lowest possible risk of the virus spreading. An eminent infectious diseases expert will review the plan which will then be provided to Government.

We know that re-opening will be a logistical exercise requiring stock, staff rosters, cash float, gaming machine maintenance etc so you will want a ‘heads-up’ before any announcement in order to get ready. We will keep you updated with information as soon as it comes to hand. My best guess at this stage is we are still a couple of months or more away from widespread re-opening. Our advice is to spend this time planning so that you are ready whenever the closure is reversed. Take the time to review your strategic plan because things have changed and there will be new opportunities. But returning to normal is more likely to be months than weeks away.

Supporting Your Recovery

While we are closed, the industry is collectively losing over around $212 million per month on a net basis. We need to be honest that some clubs will not make it through this crisis. Others will be in great financial difficulty. The industry is going to be different from how it was just 2 months ago.

We will need to see more amalgamations to ensure the assets of little clubs are not lost forever. Ultimately the bigger the club group, the better its ability to have quality leadership, to borrow money for investments and to buy products at lower prices. We are seeking Government support for a club industry modernisation bill, to update the Registered Clubs Act and streamline club operations. This includes seeking to increase the number of amalgamations per club group and seeking support for digital payment options for gaming.

When we can eventually re-open, we should expect that some people’s habits will have changed. They will have spent months consuming entertainment online and eating and drinking at home. We hope people still want to play gaming machines, but who knows? 

The CT Group research, which I referenced earlier, also indicates how people intend to spend money to mark the end of coronavirus. 44 percent of Australians want to visit a pub/club/restaurant, 42 percent want a domestic holiday (good news for our regional clubs?) and 23 percent want to see live entertainment. So, we have high hopes that clubs will be popular in the immediate aftermath of social isolation being lifted.

Our challenge will be to get them back into clubs repeatedly. That’s why ClubsNSW will be funding an industry advertising campaign, to welcome people back to clubs. I will provide details of that campaign as soon as possible.

What is Happening at ClubsNSW?

Like clubs, we have downsized to minimise costs and give us the best chance to come through the crisis in reasonable shape. Our Executive Team and the Board have taken a pay cut. We have stood down many staff and a number have been let go. Among those departing is Executive Manager for Member Services, Anne Fitzgerald. Anne has served the Association for over 18 years, but she sought voluntary redundancy on the basis that clubs won’t need many of our traditional member services and new leadership is needed to help support the new needs of clubs. On behalf of ClubsNSW, I thank Anne sincerely for her service. In time I will advise you how ClubsNSW will restructure and fill key roles so we can continue to meet your needs.

Despite ‘right-sizing’ the Association for these difficult times, we are still focused on delivering a number of pivotal services that will help you over the next few months. Our Member Enquiries Centre remains open and our Workplace Relations experts are available to help you manage your workforce. Our Government Relations Team continues to push for industry support from Government and our Comms Team will keep you updated with information.

While we don’t expect to hold a face-to-face industry event or educational training session in 2020, increasingly these will be available online.

The Board of ClubsNSW are yet to determine how membership subscriptions for the coming year will be charged, but we will defer the issue of invoices for some time. We will invoice more regularly, perhaps monthly, to help you manage cashflow. We hope flexible payment options, together with the work we continue to do on clubs’ behalf, will make it easier to pay your ClubsNSW membership subscription despite the many other priority bills to pay.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

In 1665, during an outbreak of bubonic plague, a young Isaac Newton was forced to stay home on the farm instead of attending Cambridge University. Watching an apple fall from the tree, he came up with the Theory of Gravity. 

This is a time when club leaders should be thinking about how to diversify and grow their club’s revenue in new ways. We hope great ideas will be generated that help clubs remain relevant for generations to come. Clubs will require bravery to experiment with new ideas, knowing the future will not be the same as the past. ClubsNSW has a role to play, because clubs are stronger together than alone. We will hold online forums with club CEOs to share ideas. We will be investigating new, digital opportunities for clubs to reduce cost, increase productivity and generate revenue. 

These are troubling, anxiety-inducing times. We are worried about our families, our staff, our members and the future of our clubs. But these are also times for hope and optimism. People are social creatures and they long for a return to their club. Clubs are resilient and we will recover.

Please reach out to me or our team at ClubsNSW if we can help you in any way. In the meantime, we will continue working our socks off to get approval for your club to re-open soon and we will do whatever we can to help you bounce back from this temporary shutdown. 

Josh Landis 
Chief Executive Officer
ClubsNSW