A town’s social club – which quite recently boosted more than 1,000 members – is under threat, says its chairman ahead of its annual meeting later this month or in April.
Mark Smith, chair of the Ivy Leaf Club, Whittlesey, issued the warning following a meeting with the club’s accountant.
In its latest published accounts – for 2021 – the club reported a turnover of £192,039, with seven employees and 384 members.
In a statement to members, Mr Smith lists five reasons why the financial situation at the club has become serious.
Mr Smith says:
1: Membership has fallen considerably
2: Teams playing at the club are down
3: Attendance at club functions has dropped massively
4: As a result, revenue is also down “quite a bit”
5: The club has been hit, like most businesses, by rising utility costs, brewery costs, food, beer and gas and ongoing maintenance to a building that is over 100 years old.
The only bright note, he reports, is that function room bookings “remain at a constant level”.
The Ivy Leaf in Gracious Street is a social club that it owned by its members and since March 2020 has been registered as a Co-operative Society.
In 2020 the Ivy Leaf Club was registered under the terms of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
It became, officially, a co-operative society.
Chair Mark Smith told the Financial Conduct Authority(FCA), the regulatory body, that The Ivy Leaf Club Whittlesey Limited was previously registered as Whittlesey Ivy Leaf Club Ltd “but the previous chairman failed to submit accounts and the club was de-registered I believe last year.
“Having taken advice from the FCA a new application is needed, this status is imperative to us for general functionality.”
He told the FCA: “ I have amended the name to show fully the new business and will ensure that all accounts are provided to the FCA in the future and this will feature as a committee agenda item to ensure there are no future issues.
“We are a members social club and membership is available to all the community, we currently have about 1000+ members who are from all social and cultural backgrounds.
“We strive to provide a safe place for people to meet, greet and form strong social bonds in the local community.”
Mr Smith explained: “The club doesn’t make much profit as we keep our prices quite low to attract new members and retain those that we already have.
“The Ivy Leaf is quite and old and large premises and as a result takes a lot of upkeep and the repairs are quite frequent and costly.
“Any monies made after staff wages, taxes, overheads etc are generally spent on building upkeep.”
In support of it being a bona fide co-operative, he explained that The Ivy Leaf has been a social club for 98 years and all the founding members have passed.
“We support many local organisations by allowing them to hold their meetings for free, these include, The Royal British Legion, Age Concern, The Disabled Club and The Young Techs in addition to this we are working hard to develop relationships with our local council so that we may hold some of their functions at our premises.”
Mr Smith said the club has an Annual General Meeting every year usually in the March which is advertised in advance and all members are encouraged to attend.
He said that at this meeting the officers and committee are selected by a voting process. The committee then meet regularly (once a month and the sub committees for finance and entertainment also meet once a month) and collectively decide on how finances are distributed usually on repairs and up keep and how the club is run in general.
If there are any major issues, he said, then a Special General Meeting (SGM) is called and the decision passed to the members.
Mr Smith told the FCA that the Ivy Leaf Club was “a membership based social club, where all applications for membership are considered by a committee selected once a year by the members of the club at the Annual general Meeting (AGM).
“ The club encourages applications from people from all backgrounds and makes them feel welcome in a friendly club premises which provides many activities including, live bands, Sky and BT sports, dominoes, darts, pool, snooker etc.”
In its annual accounts Mr Smith noted that 2021 “has been a difficult year for us due to Covid, loss of members through death and people just not returning.
“Things are starting to improve and now and I believe this is by us providing a safe environment through rigorous risk assessments and enforcement of public safety.
“These measures have helped us meet the members aspirational requirements”.
Club running at a loss
However, and fast forward to March 2023, Mr Smith warns that “the club has been running at a loss for a number of months and its long term continuance needs further exploration”.
He wrote: “Sadly I must bring it to the attention of our members and the community that things either need to improve over the next few months otherwise we will have no alternative but for us to cease trading.
“Whilst we haven’t put an official time scale on this yet, its important to be transparent and highlight the current situation so everyone is fully sighted.
“Whilst the officers, committee and staff continue to work hard to make the Ivy Leaf a success, sadly a lot of it seems to be in vain.”
Mr Smith added: “The purpose of this notice is to highlight the situation and to ask the members and community to support us more. It would be remiss of me not to explore all avenues and ask for help on behalf of the club before we are forced to close.”
Financial updates, he said, will be reported to the AGM “when we have documents back from the accountant”.
WHAT THE CLUB SAYS ABOUT ITSELF.
Ivy Leaf has a function room that is available for hire for birthdays, weddings, corporate events, and funerals. Anyone can rent this room.
The members bar is a safe area to meet, greet and socialise. We have a variety of beverages available and cater for most tastes. We serve bar snacks most days until 9pm and lunches on Fridays and Sundays. We have many pub sports available including two snooker tables, a pool table, dart boards and of course cards and dominoes.
We have two registered fruit machines, run a members bingo on a Monday and Thursday and the poker group meets every Tuesday.
We even have a room with games in for children to play with games such as table hockey, bar football etc whilst parents relax and gently supervise.
We supply free live acts on a regular basis, run various karaoke in our members bar and also have club run paid functions in our main dance room.
Membership is just £20 a year which runs From Jan 1st each year or £10 for half year from Aug 1st each year. Senior citizens membership is half those fees.
Membership is open to anyone, pop and join soon so you don’t miss the fun.
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