By David Hennessy
The Trustees of Chorlton Irish Club, the future of which has been in doubt for some time, have spoken out following the announcement of the club’s sale about the nature of the club’s dire financial position and the smear campaign they have been the subject of.
The Irish World reported last month that Chorlton Irish Club had been saved by a sale that retains the club building while selling part of the car park to build affordable apartments.
In a statement the Trustees detail how they had to take control to assess the full scale of the club’s financial position only to find there were “insurmountable debts”.
With the threat of an “uncontrolled sale” from creditor takeover hanging over them, the Trustees negotiated with creditors to ensure a treasured asset was not lost to the community.
The Trustees also go on to say that, despite giving 150 years to the club between them, they have been the subject of ‘derogatory allegations and overzealous speculation’, saying “to be targeted in such a way remains hurtful, disrespectful and entirely unwarranted”.
Southway Housing Trust has bought part of the car park next to the community centre to build 29 affordable apartments in a deal that will see the building retained and allow the club to pay off its debts.
The Trustees say: “The deal raises funds to clear the present liabilities, discharge the securities held against the property, and complete the necessary repair works to the fabric of the building for its preservation.”
The full statement from the Trustees reads: “Since December 2018, we have faced several litigious claims, brought personally against us, for debts that Club members and its former Committee are liable for.
“Due to the severity of matters, we intervened to ascertain the financial position of the Club. We discovered that no accounts had been filed for several years and there was no information available to audit or forensically establish what the position was. The Club had insurmountable debts and could be deemed insolvent. With the threat against the members imminent, we assumed responsibility to resolve matters.
“Facing the prospect of an uncontrolled sale from creditor takeover and losing a treasured asset, we negotiated some time with creditors by agreeing to market the property directly, but this time was limited. We used this opportunity to explore the possibility of retaining the Club premises, provided that enough proceeds could be generated to fully discharge all of the debts.
“During this period, it was surprising to find ourselves (and our families) the subject of derogatory allegations and overzealous speculation. This has largely been driven by disingenuous third party entities claiming to represent members, and acting under the guise of members interests, through various media and social media outlets. A significant number of these individuals are not actually members.
“Between us, we have provided close to 150 years of service to the Club so to be targeted in such a way remains hurtful, disrespectful and entirely unwarranted. It serves no benefit to the Association and its membership, and has offered nothing to resolve the matters we are faced with. These entities’ ambitions for political capital and commercial gain have only compounded matters and added to the financial burden to be discharged.
“Nevertheless, this is a time of good news and we shall not allow them to become the story.
“As reported, Southway Homes, a non-profit organisation that provides affordable housing, has purchased part of the car park. During negotiations, it was very quickly identified that many of the developer’s ambitions align with the aims and objects of our Association. They are a neutral party with no hidden agenda, and were the only viable bid that presented enough funds to discharge the debts and retain the Club. At this stage, we are still investigating the historical debts and interest incurred.
“We were pleased to receive the support of the local MP who endorsed the deal and congratulated us on a positive outcome. Considering it was the third party entities who reached out to the MP for influence, this offers a humble view of what has actually been achieved under the circumstances and vindicates the approach we have taken.
“The deal raises funds to clear the present liabilities, discharge the securities held against the property, and complete the necessary repair works to the fabric of the building for its preservation. Further investment in making the Club sustainable for future generations will also be explored once we have had time to address the immediate actions.
“We are delighted to have achieved a deal, against the odds, that provides the Club with another chance to flourish. We remain committed to completing this project and we are working through a process to eventually present the membership with a revitalised Club, debt free and in a healthy financial position.”
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.
In 2019, it became known that the club was in danger of closing permanently due to financial problems. In March 2019 the venue known as Irish Association Social Club ceased trading and a new club The Chorlton Irish Club began trading.
The building was put up for sale in April last year in order to pay off the club’s debts.
It was feared that the sale would result in the loss of the club, which was founded in 1956, but, under the terms of the deal with housing association Southway, the value of which was not disclosed, the two-storey building will not be demolished.
Didsbury-based Southway plans to build the homes on part of the car park next to the club and construction could begin early in 2022, subject to local consultation and planning approval. Completion of the scheme is expected in early 2024.
A representative of the trustees said at the time: “The Trustees are extremely happy with this result and to be working with a reputable local developer such as Southway Housing. The agreement will see affordable housing provided within the community, enable IASC to clear all their debts and see the club and some parking retained for the benefit and future use of its members”.
The future of the club has been contentious with a Facebook group known as Friends of Chorlton Irish continually complaining that the Trustees have not communicated with the club’s members.
A spokesperson for Friends of Chorlton Irish said of the sale: “The news raises more questions than it answers.
“Members want to know the details of the deal along with a breakdown of the club’s debt. And most importantly, what are the Trustees’ intentions now: will they hand back control to an elected committee as required by the club’sconstitution?
“The Trustees must contact the club’s members directly and fulfil the public commitments that were made in October.
“In summary – as there are no details about the deal, future proposals, or the finances of the club, it would seem premature to say the club is saved just yet.”