Club secretaries and the law

Club secretaries and the law

By Bruce Gotterson

June 22, 2017

This article appeared in the June 2017 issue of Club Life.

In a recent decision, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA Board) considered some of the important requirements under the Registered Clubs Act in relation to a club secretary.

If these requirements are not complied with by a club or its secretary, the ILGA Board has the power to impose a penalty of up to $275,000 on the club and prohibit the club secretary from acting in this role in any NSW club for a period of up to three years.

Needless to say, the ILGA Board’s decision is an important reminder for clubs and club secretaries to ensure they comply with the relevant legal requirements under the Registered Clubs Act.

Matters considered by the ILGA Board

The ILGA Board (among other things) considered whether the club had complied with the following requirements of the Registered Clubs Act:

  • A club secretary must be approved by the Authority.
  • A club must have one, but not more than one, secretary.
  • A club must not enter into an employment contract with the secretary, unless the board of the club has approved of the contract beforehand.
  • A club must provide notice to the secretary that he or she is a “top executive”.

Clubs should note that this is not a complete list of the relevant requirements under the Registered Clubs Act and there may be exceptions to these requirements. Also, a club secretary is required to comply with the relevant provisions of their club’s constitution and other legislation.

The Registered Clubs Act requires that the club secretary to be a “fit and proper” person. The ILGA Board also considered whether the club secretary was a “fit and proper” person to act in this role. The ILGA Board decision suggests that a person risks being found not to be a “fit and proper” person to act as a club secretary if he or she fails to:

  • Exercise his or her duties as club secretary with the degree of knowledge, ability, care and diligence required of a club secretary and to a standard required in the industry and by the relevant legislation.
  • Ensure the club meets its financial reporting obligations under the Registered Clubs Regulation.
  • Ensure that he or she has the necessary knowledge of the legislative requirements reasonably expected of a person acting as a club secretary.
  • Adhere to industry best practice in relation to the purchase of goods or major capital works.
  • Undertake training, or fails to arrange for the board of a club to undertake training, to acquire a better knowledge of the club’s statutory obligations or their duties.

Preventative measures

The ILGA Board’s decision is a cautionary example for clubs and club secretaries to ensure that they are aware of and have complied with their legal obligations – it is not a defence to argue “we didn’t know what we were supposed to do”. Understandably, this is not an easy task for a club, particularly as there are many sources of these legal duties, not just the Registered Clubs Act, and the requirements can be unclear and complex.

A failure to comply with the relevant requirements under the Registered Clubs Act will expose a club to a financial penalty and a club secretary to being prohibited from acting as a club secretary of any registered club in NSW for up to three years.

Accordingly, clubs should seek assistance to identify and understand the relevant legal duties. This may include obtaining legal advice and ensuring that the board and the club secretary undertake the training provided by ClubsNSW.

 

For more information contact Bruce Gotterson on b.gotterson@pigott.com.au

This article is intended to provide general information in summary form on a legal topic, current at the time of publication. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Formal legal advice should be sought in specific circumstances.