Peter Adkins, the Legal Adviser to the Alliance of British Clubs is a Solicitor who specialises in advising Clubs on Club Law generally. He is also a Legal 500 recognised expert in Licensing Law.
I am writing this article with a heavy heart as, after many years of assisting the Alliance members and running the legal helpline this will be my last contribution to the Journal. I have acted for the Alliance members for many years, and the ABC has followed me on at least 2 occasions when I have moved legal firms. Recently though, with my own retirement pending, the practice of Emms Gilmore Liberson has been taken over by Knights plc and seems to be an appropriate time for me to stop running the legal helpline.
Knights is a legal service business with 9 offices and over 750 staff spread throughout the country and as such gives more geographic coverage for members and I would still encourage members to contact us if there are problems we can help with. I am happy to be the main point of contact. I am always happy to chat through problems with Clubs and to assist on licensing issues but my ability to provide this help for free is now sadly limited.
The Alliance is an excellent grouping providing support and assistance to member clubs throughout the country and I wish it every success in the future. The Committee of the ABC works tirelessly for the membership and is a deep reservoir of knowledge which Clubs should not ignore.
On a more positive note I am assuming that life in the world of Social Clubs must be getting easier from a legal standpoint as my postbag has been noticeably emptier over recent months!
I have looked at the Queens Speech, which was presented as I write this article, and there are some articles which may assist. Whilst many Clubs now enjoy free Business Rates I see there is a further pledge to cur business rates for pubs and restaurants.
The forthcoming Brexit also raises issues of rights to work. Clubs should consider the details closely when the final documents are released and be careful to ensure that any employees have the right to work following Brexit.
On this point it is now a condition on Licences that all employees have the right to work and failure to comply with this will almost certainly lead to a review and revocation of your Licence. A club without an alcohol licence is not an attractive proposition for members.
Otherwise it seems little changes. I am still regularly asked about constitutional issues, particularly disciplinary issues for members. Here I would stress that before any action is taken Officers and Committee members consider the wording of the Club rules very carefully and ensure that they are adhering to these. Simply following the correct procedures from the start can save much grief and problems. In my experience, if a Club has problems you will find dozens of members professing to have a better understanding of the Rules than the committee, and they are usually wrong!
The mantra of always following correct procedures, also applies to employment issues. New committee members and secretaries should beware. Very often possible problems can be headed off simply by taking a step back and thinking before acting. If in doubt then contacting an employment lawyer can save the Club many thousands of pounds and hours and hours of grief and unnecessary committee meetings.
Rule changes are often proposed by new committee members. Be careful of instituting changes to Rules to deal with short term problems. Generally most Clubs rules have stood the test of time pretty well. If you do want to institute rule changes then always consider the Rule Book as a whole and not as a series of isolated Rules. Very often I have seen rule changes which have resulted in contradictory rules being brought into existence.
Many Clubs do find it difficult to form full committees. Rules will normally prescribe the number of members of the Committee and it is often difficult to fill these at an AGM. There is no magic wand to wave here, it is better always if you think there will be difficulties to talk to possible members and see why they are reluctant to take up the role. It may be that they consider it too onerous or time consuming. Try to reassure them and perhaps suggest they come along to a meeting before the election to see what happens. Keeping the formality out of meetings and making them a more social event and allowing them to speak openly without fear of recrimination very often helps here.
No-one likes to be in a position where they have to make a claim on their insurance. It generally means something has gone very wrong! This is though an area where often we find problems arising due to insufficient cover and some very disappointed and worried committees. I would make a plea for Clubs to look carefully at their insurance cover and not simply save a few pounds by going for the cheapest option. The ABC has excellent insurance advisers and they will help guide you on this. Remember that, in some circumstances, officers and trustees who do not take a sufficient degree of care could face personal liability for losses. You may find it strange for me to say this, but ticking the box on the proposal form to take out legal expenses cover is often a good investment.
I would close by encouraging Clubs to make use of those businesses who have supported the Alliance over the years. These businesses understand the needs of clubs and their business models far better than many other suppliers who simply see Clubs as another business out of which they can make money. The supporters of ABC have given many many hours of free help to the ABC, held seminars and guided members in difficulties, often for no reward. They deserve your support as they have supported you.
Thank you for your support over the years, it has been a pleasure working with the ABC, its committee and members. I wish it every success going forward.
For more information on any of the above – or any Club matters or problems please contact:
Director Regulatory Services
67 Newhall Street
Direct Dial: 0121 262 6437
Mobile: 0771 945 2090
Main: 0121 314 0000