FINANCIAL losses and a lack of volunteering have raised concerns about the future of one of Britain’s Irish clubs.
The St Albans Irish Club may be forced to shut for good if it can’t find a way to balance its finances, according to the organisation’s treasurer.
Mick Walsh claimed the long-running institution’s days are numbered without radical steps to cut its outgoings, while revealing that the club spent £19,000 more than it earned in the 12 months to March of this year.
“We cannot carry on spending more than we are earning,” he told The Irish Post.
“If we do I reckon there might not be another year here before there are real problems,” he added.
Adrian Slavin, vice-chairman of the organisation, has also admitted he is “concerned” about the recent losses, but claims he is “confident” the club will not be closing in the near future.
Mr Walsh, whose grandfather was among the Hertfordshire club’s first members when it opened in the early 1980s, decided to share his concerns publicly this week to prompt the “urgent” changes he believes are needed at the venue in London Colney.
The Mayo man has singled out the wages bill as the area most in need of change at the club.
The St Albans Irish Club’s most recent accounts, as seen by The Irish Post, show its net losses totalled £19,061 for 2013-14. Excluding depreciation of its assets, the loss was just under £16,000.
In the same period the club spent £43,524 on wages, almost a third of its £140,870 income.
Mr Slavin confirmed that the majority of that bill was spent on the club’s bar staff, several of whom are members of the club’s executive committee.
“The only way the club is going to be saved is if all of the work is done voluntarily,” Mr Walsh suggests.
“But when I have said we need to get some voluntary work going on down there, I have been told that it cannot be done.”
He added that he was “saddened” that the culture of volunteering that helped sustain the club in its early years is now gone.
While Mr Slavin shares Mr Walsh’s sadness at the disappearance of volunteer culture within the club, he claims it is “not feasible” to expect committee members or other club members to man the bar voluntarily.
“We have asked people to work voluntarily and there is nobody in this day and age who will work voluntarily in the club,” he explained.
Mr Slavin believes the club’s 2013-2014 losses were due to its decision to keep alcohol prices down coupled with a lack of support from members.
“We need more support from the members,” he told The Irish Post.
“We need them getting in and helping instead of sniping at good people who are only doing their best for the club and only have the club’s best interests at heart,” he added.
Concerns regarding the St Albans club come after a two-year period that has seen the closure of Irish clubs in Ashton-under-Lyne, Watford and Bradford.
It is believed many similar venues across Britain, described by supporters as lifelines for local Irish communities, are also under threat.
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