Bedford Park Rangers want to grow their teams, not their to-do list. In the past five years, they’ve expanded from 12 teams to 23. Chairman Jay Allison believes the clearest route to smooth growth is digitalisation.
And while the club is only just getting started on tech adoption, their progress so far suggests untapped potential for clubs up and down the country that haven’t already embraced software and supporting apps.
Learn how Jay and the team at Bedford Park Rangers have fueled their growth with a collection of time-saving apps, and put player experience at the heart of their transformation.
A club set on growth
Jay joined Bedford Park Rangers as an enthusiastic parent five years ago. At the time, there were just twelve teams – but the club grew rapidly.
So rapidly that the committee often found themselves wearing multiple hats – coach and treasurer, or coach and welfare officer. Keeping an eye on safeguarding, data protection and club finances was a full-time job.
“The key thing that stood out to me at that point was the financial aspect of running a small club,” Jay recalls. “Ultimately, you’re dealing with public money. So you’ve got to be diligent about it.”
Fast forward to the end of last season, and the club was home to 23 teams. This growth was also reflected in the workload. The more games played, the more admin to deal with.
“Throughout the process, one thing we were really mindful of was processing data and money,” Jay explains. “Back in the day, you’d have a paper sign-in sheet and you’d collect physical cheques or cash. That’s a lot of pressure for the person collecting it.”
On any given day, Bedford Park Rangers coaches could be collecting money from up to 20 team members at a time. According to Jay, those sums could range from £120 to £135 per player.
“You’re taking a significant amount of money from players and getting it to the treasurer without banking it,” Jay recalls. “I thought, there’s got to be a better way of doing this.”
But finance wasn’t the only concern. Jay and the team needed to make volunteering more attractive so that they had enough support to sustain their growth.
“I lost a coach at the beginning of the season,” Jay says. “He said, Look, I’ve got too much going on in my life. I haven’t got the bandwidth to deal with it. The key message that came through was that he wasn’t finding enjoyment because of the processes. That became one of my major focuses: how do I keep volunteers engaged?”
Bedford Park Rangers had a whole host of challenges to contend with that centred around one theme: grow the club, but not the workload. Jay realised that modern software solutions and systems could help alleviate the strain.
“As the club expands, we’re going to be processing more information. And we don’t have the capacity to do that manually,” Jay explains. “People want convenience, so if it’s hard work to join, people won’t do it. The choice is: we either create more roles, or we get technology to help us solve those problems.”
One phase at a time
Bedford Park Rangers started their digital transformation with a player payments solution, but quickly came up against friction.
“We used it for two seasons, but as we scaled, we realised the permissions made it really difficult to share responsibility,” Jay explains. “To lift those restrictions, we had to invite certain people into things they didn’t need to see, and we were conscious of GDPR rules.”
This transition coincided with Jay joining Xero as an Account Manager. On learning about some of Xero’s payment solutions, Jay decided to set up MyClubPro and use the GoCardless integration, which enables the club to set up direct debits to automatically collect recurring payments as soon as they're due.
“Since then, we haven’t looked back,” Jay reflects. “The reporting functionality in GoCardless gives us full visibility over payments,” Jay says. “You can see what you’ve been paid, what’s due to come in, and what’s due later on.”
Alongside MyClubPro and GoCardless, Bedford Park Rangers have also adopted Zettle for on-the-spot card transactions.
“Last year we started ‘mini rangers’ sessions which are geared towards Year One children,” Jay explains. “It’s pay-as-you-go and the sessions cost £3. We didn’t want to deal with lots of coins, so we opted for two Zettle card readers. Our coaches just connect their smartphones and they’re ready to take payments.”
Jay and the team have maintained a slow and steady approach to tech adoption. Jay notes that transitioning to new tools can feel overwhelming if done too quickly, and recognises the importance of bringing staff, players and parents along with you.
“Our club has 45 years of history. We’ve got children whose grandparents played for the club. So we’re trying to create user friendliness and an end-to-end seamless process.”
Jay’s approach links neatly back to the club mantra: enhanced and enriched experience. By designing with players, parents and staff in mind, the club adopts technology solutions that deliver tangible impact for the club.
“The mantra isn’t just for the kids, but also for the parents,” Jay explains. “They’re not going to do something that’s laborious or takes up a lot of time. It’s got to be easy.”
Today, the club’s sign up process is managed entirely in the MyClubPro system, which integrates with the club website. Parents can get information, see documents and view match results. There’s also a contact page with coaches' photos so people know exactly who they’re interacting with.
“Everything we do is to reassure and make things easy for people who are going to be joining the club,” Jay says. “People are time poor – they want to be able to access a service and do it in a timely manner.”
Throughout the process, Bedford Park Rangers have focused on easing the burden for parents, players and payers – designing with them in mind. But according to Jay, there’s still a lot of work to do in the grassroots football community.
“I went to a local league meeting where someone talked about coaches turning up to games without their team sheets. They recommended team sheets be laminated and distributed,” Jay recalls. “I felt my head spin. There’s no need to pull out a sheet of paper when 99% of the room has smartphones and can access an app.”
It’s these older processes and systems that Jay believes are ripe for transformation. By starting with the small stuff, it becomes possible for clubs to adapt more complex processes that aren’t serving them.
Jay and the team are committed to checking in with parents and players to make sure their digitalisation journey is moving at the right pace. For clubs concerned about overwhelming parents and players, keeping an ear to the ground is essential.
“Three of our committee members are still active coaches,” Jay explains. “Two of us have children who play at the club. So we see the impact from both sides, and think about what kind of experience we would want to interact with.”
MyClubPro, GoCardless and Zettle are only the beginning for Jay and the team. Their next step? Using Xero to make their resources and budget go even further.
Removing barriers to football
With a stack of apps and platforms already easing the administrative burden, the next stage for Bedford Park Rangers was to forecast their finances in Xero. Like many grassroots teams, cash flow is a front-of-mind topic.
“We’re lucky to have a solid financial base,” Jay reflects. “But it’s not uncommon for grassroots clubs to operate in the red. Some owe money to their local councils for pitch hire, and they aren’t able to forecast when they can pay it back. With Xero, we’re able to see exactly how much money we have coming in and what we can spend.”
Jay goes on to explain how these cash flow challenges can trickle down and impact players. Coaches and team members carry the stress of unpaid bills and unclear cash flow positions with them to training. Players could also find themselves using subpar equipment due to a lack of financial foresight. Jay’s ambition is to pass cash flow clarity onto his wider team, so they can make financial decisions backed by the numbers.
“Let’s say a coach wanted to buy jackets for their team. They can’t commit to that until they speak with the treasurer about our cash position. But with Xero properly integrated, I can give the team instant visibility over the account. If a coach wants to know what they have available, I can say: here’s what’s in your team pot.”
Cash flow projections in Xero are customisable, so you can see what’s coming up in a few weeks or a few months’ time. This translates well to the grassroots world, where clubs need to know what they can spend today, and for the rest of the season.
Helpful integrations like Hubdoc mean coaches and staff can submit their expenses on the go, and statements can be reconciled in real-time. Clubs get a more accurate and up-to-date view of their finances – without having to do the sums themselves.
“The final frontier would be for us to use Hubdoc,” Jay says. “So a coach can buy something, photograph the receipt, upload it straight to Xero, and my treasurer sees it straight away. From there, we can allocate it to their team balance, invoice them, and pay them. That’s where I want to get to.”
As we’ve already touched on, attracting and maintaining volunteer talent is crucial for grassroots clubs. Eliminating friction and removing barriers to football is an ongoing task at Bedford Park Rangers, and Jay sees software playing a fundamental role in this process.
“When technology is implemented correctly, it makes everything easy,” Jay says. “Today, I have everything on my laptop. I can pull a report in a few seconds, rather than going to an office and thinking ‘where did I file this paperwork?’ or searching through a spreadsheet. If volunteers see that you’re struggling with admin or finding it boring, why would they want to do it themselves?”
Bedford Park Rangers’ digital transformation means the club has more to offer players and volunteers.
“Our USP before was that we were small and very tight knit. Now we’re thinking about how we keep that feeling but bring in another USP: we’re affordable, we’re efficient, you get value, and our fees are low. You just go online, fill out our form, set up a direct debit, and you’re good to go.”
App stack recap
Bedford Park Rangers provide a shining example of effective app and software integration. But there’s no one right way to build your tech stack.
Chris Tugman, Partnerships Manager at Xero, shares some of the best app integrations for clubs that want to cut the admin and spend more time on the pitch.
Jay and the team are clear fans of GoCardless. The system allows you to set up direct debits to collect payments directly from customers’ bank accounts on a one-off or recurring basis (like a contract).
Chris says: “When you introduce ecosystem apps, you’re getting access to all sorts of specialist tools. You’ll find it’s easier to execute those one-off jobs quickly, efficiently and correctly. You have all the data at your fingertips, and that gives users confidence – you know you’re not going to face any nasty surprises at tax time.”
From pitch-side payments to food and drink purchases, Zettle makes card transactions simple and synchronised in Xero. There’s no delay between taking cash and banking it – payments are deposited directly in your business bank account.
Chris says: “Having these kinds of tools in place presents a really professional image to stakeholders, staff, parents and players. Instead of haphazard payments, you can give payers confidence in your operations.”
Imagine if reconciling your expenses was as easy as snapping a photo, uploading it to the cloud, and seeing the transaction data automatically exported and matched in your accounting software. With Hubdoc, it already is that simple.
Chris says: “Tools like Hubdoc help make sure you’ve got all your source documentation and data available. Say you have an audit – you’re able to produce bits of proof of expenditure and income. You’re compliance and audit-ready. Plus Hubdoc is free when you’re using a Xero business plan.”
Visualise, analyse and forecast your club finances using the data from Xero in Syft Analytics. Customiseable reports give you a glimpse into the future, so you can prepare for all eventualities.
Chris says: “Cash flow management is an issue all businesses face. Football clubs aren’t immune to that, and they might be susceptible to cash flow issues. So being able to address those problems proactively and get ahead of things improves their chance of survival – and the staff and player experience.”
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