The Newtown RSL has fallen into the hands of a profit making venture because of the apathy of members who couldn’t give a stuff about live music in the grunge capital of Sydney.

Readers of Friday’s sealed section will remember that there were a couple of aspects to the proposal which made this perhaps one of the most blatant rip-offs ever put forward to company or club members.

The first was a sale and leaseback of the club’s premises that would lock the club into a 5-year deal at rent about 3 times the market rate. The second was a loan to the club that would be repayable at interest 10% above the bank bill swap rate again, about 3 times the market rate!

The financiers would also obtain a floating charge over the assets of the club, so their position should pretty much be secured.

An outrageous profit at virtually no risk the club members couldn’t possibly vote in favour of this, could they?

Well guess what? The members voted these proposals up!

The meeting got off to a late start, with a quorum still not present 30 minutes after the meeting was due to start.

There was high farce as the administrator called for all “RSL Members” to put up there hands 21 were present (just above the quorum of 20), but when they went to sign the roll, it was found that 2 of them were not actually registered as “RSL Members”.

The administrator started the meeting anyway after and gave an outline of the club’s troubles. A call was put out to another RSL Member in the hope that they could get to the necessary quorum during the evening.

Given that there are some 6,500 members on the roll, the turnout of around 100 was typically apathetic. A lot of the members, like Crullers, would be music loving types who signed up when they went along to see live bands.

But there were none of Newtown’s bedraggled muso-types present (if you’re in Melbourne, think Brunswick Street ferals – I think you get the picture). The only people who were present to vote were old-timer RSL pokie-jockeys and about three others who could actually give a hoot.

Interestingly, there were plenty of creditors present (mostly former employees) who were most anxious to see the resolutions passed. The proposed scheme guaranteed the creditors would be paid out 100 cents in the dollar.

While Crullers certainly doesn’t object to former employees being paid out their entitlements in full, it was clear that the creditors as a group would only accept an arrangement that would see them paid out in full. The arrangements that were put to the members would obviously lump all of the financial hardship on the members, with the creditors bearing absolutely none of the pain.

The Newtown RSL is a unique venue in Sydney’s inner west, with a great stage capacity of about 600, a separate pokies lounge/bistro and it is close to the city.

But it has gone to the dogs recently, with not nearly enough pokie jockeys feeding the one-armed bandits to keep it profitable. The addition of live bands on Friday and Saturday nights over the past few years had apparently been a financial success, but not enough to keep the club above water.

Crullers and a bloke called Bill were just about lynched for asking questions about the proposals and pointing out that they were a wee tad on the rip-off side. Bill also raised some good points which Crullers hadn’t noticed about changes to the club’s constitution.

The changes will exclude existing “RSL Members” and “Life Members” from voting on changes to the club’s constitution for the next three years (if not indefinitely they’re now at the mercy of a new category of members) but yep, the RSL Members and Life Members voted in favour of these too!

There were separate resolutions to vote out each of the existing directors and vote in 6 new directors, the so-called “sporting members” who have an interest in soccer clubs.

A representative of the financiers got up to field questions. Crullers asked to the accompaniment of heckles (“get on with it”) whether they were flexible on any of the arrangements. Apart from the financial terms which were particularly oppressive on the club, Crullers was most concerned with the proposal to weed out the existing board and leave only two RSL board representatives and have 6 of these new “sporting members”.

The existing RSL members didn’t care for the fact that they would now be in the minority on the board. In fact the heckles directed towards Crullers intensified when he pressed on this issue.

Hopefully, when the club which the current members loved is long gone, they remember that it was they who voted to give up control of the running of the club.

The bloke called Bill, who pointed out the constitutional changes that would prevent existing RSL Members and Life Members from voting on constitutional changes for at least three years, copped even more heckling than Crullers.

Once again, Crullers can only speculate that in a year’s time there will be plenty of people who don’t like the way the club is being run.

But the vote in favour of all of these changes was almost unanimous, with Crullers and his new mate Bill being the only ones to vote against the measures.

Crullers has no sympathy for the old directors of the club, so abstained from voting them back. If you can’t run an RSL club profitably what with all the concessions they get from government then you don’t deserve to be in charge.

Aside from the fact that Crullers doesn’t like to see the RSL club being wrested away from the old diggers, the fact that most irks him is that the RSL club will now be used as a front for a private profit-making enterprise. The many benefits that go the way of RSL clubs are provided specifically so that they can provide facilities and services for the community.

But now the club will be at the financial beck and call of a private enterprise, whose primary motive obviously is to turn a profit. While this might not be legally wrong, it is certainly against the spirit of the various provisions which govern the running of community clubs.

Clearly, the members who voted in favour of these measures just want their club back open, and bugger the cost. A lot of those present were former employees who just wanted to be paid their salaries, and when Crullers and his fellow lone voice of dissent voted against, cries of “why?” were hurled their way.

To cap off the farce of the evening, when the new directors were voted in, one of the RSL club’s stalwarts asked that each of the new directors introduce themselves to the meeting.

How quaint we’ve just voted in a new board and we don’t know who any of them are!

Interestingly, only three of the new directors were present at the meeting. Good to see they’re taking a hands on approach already.

This was one of the all-time dud deals for club members, but obviously there was no other alternative. It was pretty much put to them by the administrators that they could either vote for this deal or see their club close.

The administrator should take a bit of the blame for this. If they couldn’t come up with a better deal for members, then in this observer’s humble opinion, they weren’t doing their job properly. As I said before, this is a great venue in the inner suburbs and if they couldn’t find a developer to get interested and not put forward such an oppressive deal for the club, then get a new administrator.

But the deal got up, and the financiers think they can get the club open in two or three weeks. Whether it will be the same club is another story altogether.

So when you’re making your way down King Street, Newtown, and hear some dopey feral whine about the lack of live music venues in Sydney, tell ’em it’s because they didn’t get off their lazy pot-smoking butt and take an active role in the running of their club.

ends

The feedback is already flowing:

Shocked by the club’s demise

I was horrified to come across this article about Newtown RSL, My first job in a club was there and for 9 1/2 years I worked there mainly weekends. And left when new management took over. It was a great place to work and the clientele and staff was lively and friendly and good to me.

I suppose they have gone downwards due to the change in the population and clientele and certainly management and the board of directors should take some of the blame. After being in an executive position for a sporting club I understand how this has a bearing on the direction of the club, and expertise in a variety of areas, should be included in the criteria prior to election to a board – as they do have a majority of say in the matter, as most members are apathetic and tend to just pay their fees and head home at the end of the day and whinge but never do anything to improve things. only complain.

I hope that they can get back on their feet not only for Newtown’s sake but also for the members that have treated this place as their own. Newtown have lost a lot of famous buildings and icons over the years and it would be a great miscarriage to lose something like the RSL, to many past and present residents. Live music would be great upstairs, wether it extends to mainstream bands, Im not sure but surely local and up and coming bands should have the opportunity to use the facilitiues available.

Hopefully all will come to fruition

Thank you, Cheryl

Peter Fray

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