There are renewed concerns about the future of Manchester’s historic Chorlton Irish Club.
A group named Friends of Chorlton Irish say they have been made aware of a document, apparently emanating from a major Manchester estate agent, suggesting the club may be sold without consulting with its members.
The group was formed last year when the club was threatened with being sold because of its mounting debts.
With debts exceeding £117,000 just on VAT alone, the total debt is understood to be significantly higher than that.
The south Manchester club was founded in the 1950s as a meeting place for the Irish community and counted Sir Matt Busby among its members.
Last year Manchester City Council listed the club as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ – effectively placing a six-month moratorium on any sale so that interested community groups might have the opportunity to put together a bid.
Last March the venue known as Irish Association Social Club ceased trading and a new club The Chorlton Irish Club began trading on 1 April after four trustees took control of the club’s day to day running.
The immediate threat to its continued existence appeared to recede. But the group of members have expressed concern that the trustees – the registered title holders of the property – may be preparing to offer it for sale without reference to the members who are supposed to own it.
Hundreds of club members and supporters endorsed an open letter to the club’s trustees, expressing frustration at the lack of any communication from them since June of last year.
Friends of Chorlton Irish told the Irish World: “The obvious concern is if the club is being allowed to wither away so that in- terest wanes, club memberships expire, and a lack of public support and deteriorating finances can then be cited as justification for closure.
“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.
“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.
“At a meeting called by members in June, the Trustees’ representatives committed to consider a proposal from the floor to form an interim members’ committee.
“This proposal was sent to them – but no response nor acknowledgement was received.
“(We) wrote twice in October to request an update on the financial position on behalf of members but again no response nor acknowledgement was received.
“There has been no communication from the Trustees with members since last June.
“Even then that contact only occurred because members took the initiative to call a meeting in the club. The night before the meeting a post on the club’s Facebook page denied that the meeting was to take place.
“Members have been let down and ignored despite a groundswell of support for the club when it came under threat last year, which has been squandered.
“So many regular groups and events have stopped using the club and members are effectively locked out of their own club, the members’ bar is closed.”
Friends of Chorlton Irish have 700+ followers on Facebook and got the support of some 6,000+ people for their petition to save the club last year.
Chorlton Irish Club did not reply to requests for comment to the Irish World.