Jay Pegg - Kansas City Roller Warriors
Roller Derby is a fun sport, we all know that. The problem is, it's an expensive sport - paying for pads, wheels, skates, bootcamp tickets, uniforms, travel and so forth soon adds up. The problem is that, while Roller Derby is a fun sport, for people to enjoy the sport side, they have to deal with the business side.
We're still in an economic recession, with every pound being more valuable as people's purses get tighter and tighter and finance is causing a real problem in Roller Derby for a variety of reasons. There are many reasons why the success of Roller Derby is reliant on cash flow. Firstly, for some people it's getting harder and harder - if not impossible - to pay dues and so they simply have to stop playing because of lack of funds. This means that unless new skaters come in, that league's monthly income from dues is dropping. Then we have to factor in that, overall, derby attendance is declining. This means that leagues are also getting less income from bouts which puts leagues on the horns of a dilemma. Do you increase dues and risk more people leaving due to hardship or put up ticket prices and risk attendance dropping still further?
And the bad news doesn't stop there. I'm sure you've all noticed that hall and venue hire has markedly gone up - one venue where I used to practice now charges double what it did just 4 years ago. Higher expenditure coupled with lower income means that the shortfall has to be made up somewhere. It has to be remembered that many derby leagues are considered not for profit and so are already working on very thin margins. If you can reduce/remove the financial burden, it makes it far easier to concentrate on playing.
So what does this all mean? Well it means that, despite the do it yourself roots of Roller Derby, your league has to be looked at as a business. A business which has a product to sell the customers. And that doesn't just mean bums on seats at games. For example, when SDRD started out we knew from the get go that we needed money in the bank. Team merch is a no-brainer, team and league shirts, scarves, coozies, y-fronts, toe guards whatever, they all sell and they all make money. Most leagues exist only because of their merch - even football teams are reliant on shirt sales to keep them in business. But there's many other ways of making money. At SDRD we made our practices open. Pay five pounds and come and skate with the boys. It was a huge success. I remember one session where we had over 40 guest skaters!
Now I'm with KCRW, there isn't a WFTDA league within 150 miles of them, but there are LOTS of derby leagues in the Missouri/Kansas area. So KCRW runs bootcamps and clinics. The refs and skaters get to learn from the best in the area which helps them improve and KCRW gets to put money into its travel fun.
The Cowtown Butchers run pay to play co-ed mash ups with various fun themes. In one game people paid to have Dante Muse skate in a tutu and boob tube. The audience paid to have silly shenanigans happen per jam and Dante himself said that it was the most fun he'd ever had. It was also extremely lucrative. I mean who wouldn't pay to see Sugarboots scream "I love you" and blow kisses to the penalty box on every scoring lap?
There's just three examples from three different leagues and the permutations are, obviously, endless, but that should give you an idea of just how important is cash flow. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here in what has become rather a long preamble to what was going to be my original point. Remember I said that hall and venue hire has, for the most part, risen dramatically? Far more than the rate of inflation. That's because many rinks are taking advantage of leagues and getting them to pay top dollar for their facilities - in the UK particularly finding good places to bout/practice can be the toughest thing a league faces. How often have you had schedule clashes with badminton leagues, availability times suddenly change or seen hourly rates randomly increase? The solution to this is, for most leagues, unobtainable but there are the lucky few that own their own venue. It's a huge and scary undertaking but the rewards are just as massive. You can train when you want, you don't have to pay hall fees which can run into the thousands per month, you have a greater control over income from bouts, you can hire it out to other leagues, run boot camps and so on; the list is almost endless and you'd be amazed by how much expenditure will drop compared to - if properly run - income will rise. The doubly whammy of extra training AND healthier finances will massively, massively benefit any league. Remember, Your Mom own three rinks - one wood floor, one cement, one sport court - and I hear they're not too shabby.