Court rules on right to dissolve clubs

Ruling overturns order on dissolution and sale of assets of Roadstone club

Even taking into account the cost of this litigation, the club still has significant reserves and a significant minority favours its continued existence, Mr Justice Frank Clarke observed.

Even taking into account the cost of this litigation, the club still has significant reserves and a significant minority favours its continued existence, Mr Justice Frank Clarke observed.

Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 01:00

All social and sports club members share in their organisation’s property and assets, unless the rules say otherwise, the Supreme Court said yesterday in a judgment that could have implications for all such groups in the Republic.

The three-judge court overturned an order allowing for the dissolution and sale of assets of the Roadstone Sports & Social Club in west Dublin.

It ruled there was insufficient evidence on which it could be concluded the club was doomed to failure, either for financial reasons, or because its purpose and objects could no longer be fulfilled.

Even taking into account the cost of this litigation, the club still has significant reserves and a significant minority favours its continued existence, Mr Justice Frank Clarke observed.

The judgment is likely to have implications for all clubs in the Republic as it clarifies the law governing dissolution and the ownership of their assets.


Procedures
One of its points is that all members, no matter what their category, have an interest in their club’s property and assets, unless the rules state otherwise.

It also makes it clear that they need to outline what procedures should be followed to dissolve the organisation.

Following the ruling, Gary Byrne, partner with Byrne Wallace, solicitors for the winning side, said that the judgment was a “badly needed and overdue modern exposition” of the law in this area.

Mr Justice Clarke said this case ultimately concerned the questions of what is a club, what keeps it alive and when, as a matter of law, it can be said to have come to an end.

He stressed the court was not ruling there could be no future dissolution of the Roadstone Sports & Social Club.

However, any such move would have to come after the views of all members, including associate members, had been canvassed and not just those ordinary members who had voted in 2009, by 45 to four, in favour of dissolution.

There would also have to be evidence the club’s financial position was such that it would, within a short time, be doomed to failure and was unable to fulfi its objects, he said.

While some of the club’s trustees favoured dissolution, others believed the club remains viable and is an important social and sporting outlet for employees of the Roadstone group and the local community, he noted.


Clondalkin facilities
In 2010, it had €478,820 in cash, although redundancy payments and other costs reduced this to €312,008 in 2011.

It owns 18 acres at Kingswood Clondalkin where it has a function hall, bar/restaurant, basketball court, indoor soccer pitch, snooker tables and a pitch and putt course.

Its main income is from hiring out these facilities.


Developer offer
In 2008, a developer offered it €20 million for the site, a bid that the High Court acknowledged in 2012 was unlikely to be repeated.

South Dublin County Council paid it €1 million in 2004 for land bought under a compulsory purchase order.

It was set up for employees of Roadstone, now part of CRH, in 1957. In 2008 it was decided to close membership, which had declined from the 1980s.

At the end of 2010, it had 349 associate members, 53 ordinary members, one honorary member and two life members.