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Sporting Clubs Deplore Proposed Licensing Changes



Sir Ewan Jamieson, President of the Sporting Clubs association of New (SCANZ), fears that serious damage is likely to be done to the interest of its nationwide membership of some 1100 sporting clubs if the recommendations recently made by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Justice and Law Reform are adopted by Parliament when the Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill (No 2) is taken in the House.

"I am bitterly disappointed by the apparent disregard shown for the presentations we made on behalf of our member clubs when the Select Committee was considered the draft Bill", he said.

SCANZ' principle concern is that, if the changes recommended by the Select Committee are incorporated into the draft Bill and enacted into law, all sporting clubs, regardless of their size, location or record of providing a safe drinking environment will be saddled with bearing the same financial, and staff training demands as commercial liquor outlets where the sale of liquor is their principal activity. That will be unsustainable for all but the largest clubs, which employ professional managers and staff.

The majority of SCANZ' member clubs are managed and staffed by volunteers drawn from their amateur ranks. All but a few could face the prospect of having to stop providing for an after match drink in a controlled environment, as a social adjunct to their primary recreational activities. Many localities could this be deprived of a long standing and much valued social amenity.

That might delight the hoteliers, but it would be devastating for most of our member clubs and the communities from which they spring," said Sir Ewan.

The Robertson Committee recognised the value of sporting clubs in supporting healthy activity and contributing to social cohesion in local communities. It also recognised that most sporting clubs are already stretched to meet the costs and staff training demands of the existing club licence regime. Its aim was to ease those burdens and so extend the process of liberalisation started by the Laking Committee.

To this end, the Robinson Committee included in its recommendations a dispensation provision which was designed to relieve all but large sporting clubs, with paid management and staff, of most of the costs associated with holding the present club licence let alone the heavier demands of holding the same on-licence as a commercial liquor outlet.

SCANZ deplores the fact that the Select Committee has chosen to go off in the opposite direction. It has recommended that the proposed dispensation provision be eliminated from the Bill but has not linked that recommendation to any discussion on the consequent need to retain provision for the present club licence to meet the needs of smaller sporting clubs.

SCANZ argues that, if both the proposed dispensation provision and the current Club Licence provision are removed from the Act, most sporting clubs will be faced with a "no win" dilemma. The first option would be to close their aftermatch refreshments facilities - at considerable monetary and social cost. The second option, in order to meet the cost of employing professional staff, will be to expand bar activities by encouraging public use of their facilities - as permitted under standard on-licence regulations. Neither of those options would be good for the sporting or social interests of the clubs.

"If the changes made by the Select Committee are adopted the great majority of our not insubstantial membership will be outraged. I find it astonishing that members of parliament should be ready to consider stirring up this hornets nest for no good reason.

It's not as though our member clubs have been identified as failing to provide a safe drinking environment under the present Club Licence system.

SCANZ has been an active supporter of ALAC and its "Host Responsibility" campaign. We have produced and supplied to all of our clubs a Handbook for Bar Managers which provides comprehensive guidance on all aspects of the laws and best practices affecting responsible bar management and control of the sale of liquor. During the ten years I have been involved in our Association's administration, I cannot recall a single member club having its licence suspended - or even coming under threat of suspension.

On the contrary, we have received favourable comment from the Policy and other enforcement agencies on the responsible manner in which our member clubs have discharged their responsibilities under the Act.

Where there are rogue clubs causing trouble the enforcement agencies should identify them, apply the penalties already available under the Act and, if necessary, prohibit their sale of liquor. That a few rogues exist is no excuse for thrashing all the other sporting clubs which are acting responsibly and doing only good for their communities," he contended.

Sir Ewan then asked.

"What is so seriously wrong with the present club licence system that it should be abandoned in favour of more rigorous regulation and higher associated costs regardless of the serious harm the change could do to most sporting clubs and the communities they serve?"




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