IT’S a sign of the times if ever there was one.
On the door of Tumut’s now-abandoned RSL club hangs a sign telling prospective visitors the club has been closed due to “an extreme loss of patronage”.
Those words will carry a sense of foreboding for the members and directors of small clubs throughout the region.
For years, our clubs have been buffeted by winds of change.
Smoking laws, tighter pokie regulations, rising fixed costs and a cultural shift away from punters frequenting licensed venues are just some of the pressure points that have slowly asphyxiated the sector.
Like giant dominoes they have fallen: clubs in Griffith, Leeton, Gundagai and most other corners of the Riverina.
In Wagga, the demise of South Wagga Bowling Club and the Wagga Leagues Club still lives large in the memories of locals.
Many of our existing clubs, particularly the smaller ones, are still locked in that battle for survival.
How clubs that have existed happily for decades are suddenly on the brink of extinction is a simple case of economics.
Costs are rising, revenue is falling.
Something has to give.
There is much at stake here.
Clubs are true local hubs, vehicles of community connectivity.
They provide an important social function and a venue for service clubs and other groups to meet.
They also donate substantial sums of money to sporting clubs and other causes.
The directors of our smaller clubs are valiantly trying to keep them afloat, in some cases doing the cleaning themselves and working the bar just to keep costs down.
But they are swimming against a torrid tide.
Wagga Boat Club commodore Mick Henderson is spot-on when he says clubs have to increase their offer to lure patrons – modern amenities, great food and exemplary service.
Clubs can no longer take their existence for granted.
Now, more than ever, they are relying on you.
Members must recognise their role in securing their club’s future.
Most clibs have hundreds of members on their books, but only a small fraction regularly frequent the venue.
Unless members heed the call and start supporting their club, the fall of the Tumut RSL may just be the thin edge of the wedge.