This signs hangs outside The Riverside Cafe in Callander, a small town in the region of Stirling, Scotland, situated on the River Teith. The town is a popular tourist stop to and from the Highlands.
The Riverside Cafe is also the unofficial ‘home’ of Callander Cricket Club, a really welcoming and innovative community cricket club. Through my work with Cricket Scotland, I have visited the club and the Cafe twice and always found it a very friendly and welcoming place. My wife and I, together with Mozart, our Retriever, visited The Riverside Cafe on Spring Bank holiday.
We enjoyed some good food, friendly staff, watched the dogs playing with each other, chatted with fellow guests of all ages and could even check our emails and next destination on our laptop. A great time was had by all – we will certainly be back next time we are in Stirling.
My question to you now is: Do you offer a similar, welcoming experience at your club/centre? Can I bring my dog and check my emails in a vibrant environment, where the whole family wants to spend their time and be active?
Unfortunately, on my travels I experience too many sports club and leisure centres where there is simply no atmosphere. Some are very tired, unkempt and even dirty, and they are suffering in terms of people visiting and financially. (A club house I visited used to take £100 over the bar on weekdays. Now it’s down to £40, per day).
So here are two simple action points:
There are 8 million dog owners in the UK so they represent a massive group of potential members and supporters at your club/centre. Welcome them and their owners. There are over 32,000 businesses and public places listed on dogfriendly.co.uk
Yes, I appreciate there might a few practical issues, but many hotels and restaurants have overcome those, so with a bit of effort, you can too. Just read the story from my time as volunteer with Bedford Athletic RUFC and have a look at the stories from the Kennel Club’s Be Dog Friendly campaign.
There is a misconception in the UK that dogs are not allowed in premises where food is served, such as restaurants and cafes. This is not the case: it is only food preparation areas that are out of bounds, not areas where food is served and sold. The only legal obligation on the owner of such a place is to make sure there is no risk of contamination and that all food preparation areas are up to specified hygiene standards.
Skål – the story of the welcoming Retriever
In the early Noughties I got involved with Bedford Athletic RUFC (‘The Ath’) as a volunteer Commercial Manager.( This is how I how got the idea of setting up the Sports Marketing Network). On match days Skål (Danish for ‘cheers’), my Golden Retriever, would walk around the club house wearing his bandana with the club logo (see photo above), look pathetic and generally beg for pork scratchings, making the club a bit more welcoming.
I wrote the programme notes for the first XV team matches and after a while I started to include a column where Skål commented on club life through the eyes of a Golden Retriever. Again trying to create something that helped the Ath stand out, as a bit more than ‘just a rugby club.”
One Sunday morning I was walking around the club with the dog and some of the Juniors brought some of their opponents over to introduce them to Wonder Dog pointing at Skål! “Why Wonder Dog I asked?” “It’s because he can open a bag of crisps himself”, they answered. Somehow, Skål had helped the Ath to become a bit more welcoming.When Skål
passed away a few years into my period as a volunteer the club was almost in mourning. I am only half-joking when I suggest that your club should have a Golden Retriever walking around your club making it that bit more welcoming, but trust me, it works!
While we were transforming the Ath into a real welcoming place, one day, whilst producing the programme I made a typo and ‘Enjoy the atmosphere’ became ‘Enjoy the Athmosphere’ (geddit!?). It stuck.
Be Dog Friendly is a Kennel Club Campaign to encourage, recognise and reward non-pet business and places that go the extra mile for the benefit of the UK’s 8 million dogs and their owners. On bedogfriendlyawards.com you can learn about restaurants, dogs, caravan parks, tourist attractions and even a bank which are excelling in being dog friendly.
In a world where Metrolink in Manchester (see picture below) and the trams in Edinburgh have free wifi and where people between 16 and 24 spend 30 hours per week online, you simply have to have free wifi at your club/centre.
If you want to engage with young people and keep them as members, free wifi is simply now a must. It is simple and inexpensive to install and by promoting ‘free wifi’ you are saying that you are ‘listening to people’s lives’.
So, here you have it: If you become dog-friendly and install wifi you will become more vibrant, visible and viable.