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Club Law and Management

by Philip Smith, Secretary of the A.C.C.

Q. We have recently expelled a member from the Club for poor behaviour on the Club's premises. However, we have now heard that some of his friends are organising a petition to have this ban overturned at the AGM; is this possible? Also, this expelled member continues to write to the Committee of the Club; do we have to reply to his letters?

A. We can confim that disciplinary actions cannot be overturned a either an Annual General Meeting or Special General Meeting. The Rules of the Club explicitly place these decisions in the hands of the Committee and it would take a Rule change to allow the Members to overturn individual Committee decisions on this subject.

The expelled member is no longer a member of your Club and the Committee have no need to correspond with him further. We advise you not to reply to, or enter into, any further correspondence with this expelled Member over this matter and to inform any current members who query it that discuplinary action cannot be overturned at either an SGM or an AGM.

The general answer which you may wish to point out to any member who queries that is that if a majority of the members feel strongly that a miscarriage of justice has occurred they will elect a future Committee who will reassess the situation, having viewed all the evidence.

We suspect though that the vast majority of your members are in agreement with the Committee's decision on this matter and fully support it.

 

Q. We use a prepaid card system which allows member to load money in advance on to a bar card which they can then use to buy drinks. If they do this they receive a 5% discount at the bar. One member has proposed a motion at the AGM that this be raised to 10% discount. The Committee feels that this would place a big strain on the Club's finances if passed.

A. The motion to raise the discount given on the prepaid card system, is not an appropriate motion for inclusion within the AGM.

Pricing decisions are exclusively the authority of the elected Committee and it is nor feasible that the members should be able to set prices. This would effectively mean that every time a price must be changed a Special General Meeting is called to vote on the issue to obtain the members consent.

The members must accept that an elected Committee is there to oversee, and make, decisions regarding the internal running of the Club. It is not practical that members have a vote on the day- to- day issues which affect the running of the Club.

Futhermore there are important financial considerations behind why the discount is set at 5% and not 10% and this proposed motion does not take into consideration the market conditions which affect these types of decisions.

 
 

Q. One of our members has put a motion in for inclusion at the AGM that the Committee detail the individual salaries of all Club employers. Do we have to disclose this information to the Members at an AGM?

A. The request for salary details to be revealed at the Annual General Meeting cannot be included as it is not a proper motion. A motion is something which can be voted on by the members by giving a 'yes' or 'no' answer.

A request for information is not a motion and so cannot be included as an item in the AGM.

The Rules clearly state that internal management, of the Club's affairs such as employment, is exclusively a matter for the Club's Committee. The appointment and dismissal of the Steward and all the Club employees shall be vested solely in the Committee. If this member has questions about the wages then it would be appropriate to raise this as a question during the financial report at the AGM.

It is important to ascertain why this informaiton is required by the member. As with all sensitive and confidential financial information there must be a legitimate reason to disclose this information.

If this member would like to have a say in the internal running of the Club and have access to this informationthey they are free to be nominated to the Committee and agree to abide by the usual Committee confidentiality.

Wage information is sensitive information and is kept confidentiality for important reasons. Unless there is a legitimate need to break down the amount paid to each employee then the Committee should not feel obliged to provide this information.

 
 

Q. During my tenure both on the Committee and as Secretary we have had the same President, but this year the President is standing down and another standing.

My question is: does the outgoing President chair the whole AGM, or does he chair the meeting until the new President is ratified at the meeting?

A. This matter varies from Club to Club and you should look at the precedent which have previosuly been set regarding how the AGM, which has an outgoing President, is conducted. However, it would be highly unusual for an incoming President not to be allowed to address the members if they so desired.

On many occasions it would be appropriate for the outgoing President to open the meeting and discuss any issues arising and give the overview of the previous year before handing over to the new President to close the meeting and address the members. We suggest that the two Presidents discuss how they would like to hold the meeting and decide on an appropriate format.

 

Q. We have recently had a request from a lady asking to have her name put forward to stand for the Committee, but her husband is already a Committee member. Is there any rule against husband and wife being on the Committee together? Would it make any difference if the husband was an employee of the Club?

A. There is absolutley no problem with spouses serving together on the Committee. Individual members enjoy individual membership rights and so are both eligible to be elected on to the Committee.

There would also be no problem if one of them was an employee of the Club; although in that situation the spouse of the employee should exclude themselves from any discussions involving employment matters. This is because there is a clear conflict of interest on this matter.

The same rule applies to anyone elected on to the Committee with a conflict of interest; whilst they may still stand for Committee they should exclude themselves from a discussion which relates to the conflict.

 

Minotaur Asset Finance

A large number of Clubs have reported receiving a letter, and leaflet, from Minotaur Asset Finance.

This company seeks to provide assistance to Clubs and makes particular reference to members risking personal liability of debt.

The company is interested in planning and property development of Club sites and offers to assist Clubs with debt management whilst they arrange for planning applications to be made.

The company also offers a "free" cost management service to those Clubs which are not experiencing any difficulties.

Please note that Minotaur Asset Finance is not an ACC recommended company and the ACC would advise Clubs to refer any proposals that may be made by this company to the ACC.

Alcohol Promotions

The previous Government released additional guidance as to what will constitute irresponsible drink promotions. Most Conservative Clubs are unlikely to fall foul of these, of which the main points are listed below.

Games where an individual is encouraged to drink a quantity of alcohol within a time limit and 'all you can drink offers'.

Unlimited or unspecified quantities of alcohol for free, or at a fixed or discounted price such as 'Lady Members drink half price on Thursday nights'.

Free or discounted alcohol when viewing a sporting event when dependent or linked to the outcome, or something occurring or not occurring - such as 'a free beer for predicting the first goal'.

Selling or supplying alcohol in response to a poster or flyer displayed on or in the vicinity of the Club which condones, encourages or glamorises anti social behaviour - such as 'discounted drinks to assist you on your path to oblibion'.

Effectively, any promotion which carries a significant risk of crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance or harm to children will be prohibited.

For instance, a special offer on drinks during a football match would likely not be prohibited if it was undetaken in a responsible way. However it is important to note that as this guidance is relatively new we do not have much in the way of real life examples as to how Local Authorities will interpret the guidance. From the legal standpoint, the legislation has not changed; it is just that Local Authorities have taken it upon themselves to provide guidance on the legislation. Nevertheless, a promotion will only be contary to the licensing conditions if it is clearly irresponsible. This has always been the case and has not suddenly changes with the production of this 'guidance'.

Clubs should also be aware of misleading language used by both the Home Office and DCMS. Certain literature from both suggests that large quantities of alcohol based promotions will be banned, whereas the actual legislation just refers to unspecified or unlimited quantities of alcohol which if offered for free or at a discount. Therefore, where a pound a pint may fail as a legitimate promotion under the above, offering 20 pints for £1 each would not be banned as the offered alcohol would be capped.

Clubs may offer a set number of drinks with an entry fee to an event. A £30 ticket which includes 10 free drinks is a perfectly legitimate promotion.

There has been additional guidance issued on the supply of free tap water to customers. Customers is the crucial part, as there appears to be no requirement to offer tap water to people who have not, in some way, already traded with the Club by some sort of purchase. This will prevent people from purely asking for free tap water instead of purchasing paid for drinks. We can also confirm that it is not a requirement to advertise that free tap water is available.

We suggest that, as most Clubs already do, free tap water is continued to be provided to patrons of the Club but that grossly unreasonable demands should be resisted. Should a party of 20 for instance order two coffees and 18 waters then this could clearly be resisted not only as an unreasonable demand but also by the virtue that clearly 18 of the 20 people were not in fact customers. Since no case of this nature has ever reached the High Court, this advice is based on the wording of the legislation.

We recommend that if any Clubs have any doubts over an offer or planned promotion that you contact your local Licensing Authority and seek clarificaiton on their view of your proposed event. However, it it important to remember that 'Happy Hours' are still  legal as are drinks promotions which are undertaken responsibly. The ACC will be happy to assist any Club which finds itself dealing with an overbearing Local Authority.