Serious concerns raised over future of Chorlton Irish Club

Serious concerns raised over future of Chorlton Irish Club

SERIOUS concerns have been raised about the fate of the at-risk Chorlton Irish Club, with members frustrated by a lack of communication from Trustees.

This month members of the historic club, which was made an Asset of Community Value (ACV) by Manchester City Council in September 2019, sent an open letter to its Trustees calling for clarity on where its future lies.

“It is now eight months since you took over running of the club from the management committee,” they state.

“Your intervention was widely welcomed at the time, given your stated desire to save the club from the closure plan that had been proposed by the committee,” they add.

“As club members we understand that the financial situation remains very challenging. It may be that you are now putting the club on a more sustainable path.

“Unfortunately, members have had little communication from you and as a result there remains much concern about the club’s future.”

Hundreds of Club members and supporters signed the letter, hoping to learn just what is to become of the popular centre, which was founded in the 1956 as a meeting place for the Irish community.

Over the years the club counted the likes of Sir Matt Busby among its members as it developed into one of the most popular community venues in south Manchester.

However financial difficulties have put a strain on the club in recent years and in March 2019 it was announced that it was under threat of closure due to the pressure of outstanding debts.

In a bid to save it, the Friends of Chorlton Irish Club campaign group was launched, and an online petition was set up calling for the Club to be saved and new plans to be made regarding its future.

That petition attracted more than 5,000 signatures.

Last year the group submitted the ACV nomination to Manchester Council, which was confirmed in September, meaning the club cannot be sold by its Trustees without the council first being notified.

The open letter issued last week through the Friends of Chorlton Irish went on to raise numerous questions about the club with Trustees, including the lack of published accounts, failure to hold an AGM, the effective closure of the membership scheme, and a lack of promotion of the club.

It attracted the support of 300 club members and supporters, including Irish folk legend Andy Irvine, a past performer at the venue.

As yet, the group has received no response from the Trustees, although they have since been made aware of a document which “appears to be a draft sales brochure for the property”, they told The Irish Post this week.

As a result, they fear that plans are being developed for the club to be sold without any consultation with its members.

“The obvious concern is if the club is being allowed to wither away so that interest wanes, club memberships expire, and a lack of public support and deteriorating finances can then be cited as justification for closure,” a spokesperson for the Friends of Chorlton Irish group explained.

“It would be outrageous for the premises to be put up for sale without the consent of its members, who actually own the club.

“What would happen to the proceeds of any sale, and who would oversee the funds?

“Even after debts are cleared it is likely there would be a huge surplus from the sale of such a prime site.”

He added: “We understand that when the club was under threat last year around 200 people expressed their support by becoming members. Each of these people handed over £25 yet are being completely ignored as the club is being run without any accountability to its membership and contrary to its own rulebook.

“The club’s future is also of legitimate interest to the Irish and wider community around Chorlton who have supported it for many years”.

Under the Club’s current ACV, in the event that the Trustees of Chorlton Irish Club wish to sell the premises, they must inform Manchester City Council, who then notify the nominating group.

There would then be a six-week moratorium on the sale to allow a community organisation to express an interest in bidding.

If there is interest, the community organisation has six months to put together a bid – although the seller does not have to accept it and can sell to anyone they wish in the normal way.