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Club Law and Management

Questions and Answers

Q There is a section of Club Members who are in dispute with each other and who continually put in complaints to the Committee about the Members they are in dispute with. Holding disciplinary meetings is time consuming and the Committee are wondering if a fee of £25 can be introduced to try to discourage Members from putting in timewasting complaints.
A Whilst I understand the thought process behind this suggestion, I do not think that this proposal should be implemented.  I believe that taking a monetary ‘deposit’ from Members in order for them to lodge a complaint is simply unworkable and implies that a disciplinary meeting can be purchased for £25.  Disciplinary Meetings are held at the request of the Committee and cannot be purchased for £25.  If the Committee considers that a Meeting should be held then hold the meeting, if not then don’t hold the meeting. The Committee could easily find itself in a position where it considers that a disciplinary meeting should be held but the complaining Member does not wish to pay £25. The policy then changes from £25 to hold a disciplinary meeting to £25 to hold a disciplinary meeting which the Committee does not wish to hold. The solution is therefore for the Committee to only hold a Disciplinary Meeting when they consider it to be in the interests of the Club to do so.  Therefore, I simply suggest that the Committee is slightly more restrained when deciding to hold a disciplinary hearing.  A disciplinary hearing does not need to be held simply because a complaint has been received, the Committee has significant discretion to review the complaint and decide that a disciplinary meeting is not warranted under the circumstances. Such a decision can be made for many reasons but the most common reasons for not holding a disciplinary meeting after a complaint has been received is that there is little chance of a guilty verdict being rendered or that the Committee considers that the Member has not case to answer for, or at least no case to answer for which should result in disciplinary action being taken against them. Certainly, if the Committee considers that complaints are simply being made as a way to get at other Members then it is unlikely these will result in a disciplinary meeting, indeed any Member making a complaint which the Committee considers is vindictive or fraudulent may find themselves facing a disciplinary meeting to explain their actions.  The Committee can take unofficial actions when a complaint is received such as an informal letter to a Member informing them of the complaint which has been received and simply reminding them of the expectant standards of behaviour when inside the Club.

Q We have received a proposal for inclusion on the agenda of our Annual General Meeting concerning the provision of food to sports teams playing in the Club.  Currently we provide free food to those taking part as hosting these events in the Club provides a boost for our bar takings. The motion suggests that the teams playing in the Club should contribute to the cost of the food although it does not state exactly how much the contribution should be. Is this a valid item for inclusion on the agenda of the AGM and, if so, do the Members who have proposed and seconded the motion have to be at the AGM in person to propose the motion?
A  I think the Committee could accept this motion as being acceptable for inclusion on the Agenda for the AGM on the grounds that it is merely a recommendation to the Committee rather than being binding. It is important for any elected Committee to have flexibility when dealing with the day to day business of the Club. For example, there be some matches where it would be appropriate for participants to make a contribution to refreshment costs but on other occasions, perhaps special events or finals involving other teams from different Clubs, it would not be so appropriate since the amount of food may be higher but the level of bar income would offset any costs.  With this in mind, perhaps you could have word with the Proposer of the motion to explain that it will be included but on the basis of a recommendation for the Committee to implement as they think appropriate in the event of it being approved.  I confirm that the actual Proposer and the Seconder of the motion do not have to be present at the meeting but somebody must propose the motion in their absence and it needs to be seconded in order for a discussion and voting to take place.
Q The Club’s Auditor is retiring and will no longer be able to audit the Club’s accounts. Can the Committee choose a replacement auditor or is this a matter for the Members to determine?
A The appointment of the Club’s accountant is vested in the Committee whilst the appointment of the Club’s Auditor is made by the Club’s Members. Therefore, if the Club’s auditor ceases to trade
then the Club’s Members would have to approve a replacement auditor.  Unless the Club is operating under an old set of Industrial and Provident Society Rules, the Members can determine if the Club’s accounts are to be audited each year. The Club’s Members may determine that an audit is not required and this would save the Club the cost of the audit each year. If the Club is operating under old Rules which state that an audit is required then please let us know and we can update the Club’s Rules to remove this requirement.
Q The Club has a Bye-Law which prohibits drinking from a bottle. With the introduction of new drink types which are meant to be drunk from the bottle the Committee are considering relaxing this Bye-Law. However, we are concerned over the possible health and safety issue of allowing customers to drink from bottles which have been stored in the Club’s cellar.
A Should the Committee wish to remove this Bye Law then they may do so or, alternatively, they can modify the wording to specifically allow for the drinking of specific drinks from the bottle.  I do suggest that a glass is still offered to customers when purchasing these types of drinks and that if there are concerns over the cleanliness of the bottles that they are properly rinsed prior to serving. The Club’s cellar should, of course, be regularly cleaned in any event.
Q Our Licensing Officer is suggesting that for many of our Members’ events that a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) should be obtained. We have always believed that a Member of the Club can hire out the function room and invite people to the event without the Club needing to obtain a TEN. As we can only have 12 TEN’s per year you understand why we do not wish to use a TEN if we do not need to.
A As long as the room is hired to a Member of the Club then they can invite as many guests to attend as they wish and a TEN will not be required. A TEN is only required if an event is being held by either a non-member or if the persons attending cannot be reasonably argued to be guests of the Member holding the event.  As a rule of thumb, the attending guests should be known to the Member prior to the event taking place although on occasion, such as a wake, there is discretion on this point provided that the guests are properly signed in upon entry to the Club. As an example, it would be reasonable to argue that a wake held by a Member may legitimately have guests attending whom they may not personally known but that it is still a legitimate Member’s event. However, a Member cannot simply hire the Club’s function room and then allow Members of the public to attend the event in who are not known to them or haven’t previously been personally invited to the event. The Committee should therefore make sure that only bonafide Member’s events take place without a TEN being obtained.

Employment Law changes

From the 19th July, there are several changes to employment legislation which Clubs will wish to be aware of. The changes revolve around two aspects of employment law, namely Employment Tribunals and Pre-settlement discussions.
Employment Tribunals are being modified to include an initial ‘sift stage’ to determine whether a claim should be struck out. Assuming that a claim survives this ‘sift stage’ then there will be a single preliminary hearing and the parties will also be encouraged to resolve the dispute without proceeding to a full employment tribunal.
The costs structure of an employment tribunal is also being modified. For unfair dismissal awards, the compensatory award for an unfair dismissal is now capped at the lower of either one year’s gross pay or £74,200.  For most Clubs this will mean that the compensatory award is capped at one year’s gross pay (which does not include pension contributions, benefits in kind or discretionary bonuses).
Employees wishing to bring a claim before an employment tribunal will also have to pay a fee in order to lodge the claim.  Depending on the type of claim being lodged, these fees will be up to £250 in order to lodge the claim and then an additional fee of up to £950 if the claim progresses to an employment tribunal hearing.
A change is also being made to the dismissals procedure.  Employers will be able to undertake pre-termination negotiations with employees without such negotiations being admissible in the event of an unfair dismissal claim being lodged. However, where there is “improper behaviour” in relation to the settlement agreement discussions, evidence on negotiations will be admissible unless the tribunal considers it just to exclude it. Should an agreement be reached during a pre-termination negotiation then a settlement agreement will have to be formalised.
Settlement agreements are replacing compromise agreements and additional ACAS guidance on such agreements is expected to be forthcoming shortly. We advise any Club considering using pre-termination negotiations to contact the ACC for further advice prior to undertaking such a negotiation.
The Premier League has recently announced that enforcement visits to licensed premises will be increased in an effort to safeguard the Premier League’s commercial copyright in relation to Premiership football. The latest case which the High Court has heard concerned live streaming of Premiership football over the internet and the High Court considered that such streaming was an infringement of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
The Premier League are planning to enforce this ruling and have said that; “Publicans should know that the only broadcasters entitled to show live Premier League matches in the UK as of the coming season are BSkyB and BT Vision.” The Premier League spokesman continued “Any publican who is being offered a service that is not either BSkyB or BT Vision should be aware that these are illegal and they are opening themselves up to the possibility of prosecution.”
It is believed that around 8,000 targeted visits will be made during the course of the season, which is twice as many visits as last season. The Premier League has appointed the firm ID Inquiries to carry out investigations into the authorised and illegal use of foreign satellite systems in licensed premises.
Clubs are private establishments and only Members, Members’ guests and IA Ticket Holders have the right of entry to the Club.