The clause’s explanatory notes are scanty in detail, but there are important issues in defining community amateur sports clubs, in terms of potential or ongoing clashes with HMRC. As we are legislating for that now, I want to check the exact situation.
The first point relates to miners’ welfare clubs under the auspices of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, which is defined as a charity in its own way, and therefore has to abide by the various rules of the Charity Commission. The essence of miners’ welfare clubs is that they are predominantly sports clubs, but they are also social entertainment clubs with a bar. There is often a conflict in relation to HMRC in that context, but if that remains the case, it is absurd. In essence, for a period of time, such clubs were perhaps defined as drinking clubs, but in the past five years in particular, they have returned to their historical tradition of primarily being sports clubs, involving many people in the community.
The problem, and I suspect that it may affect other sports clubs too, is that membership is by nomination and election. In theory, one can be turned down for membership, or one can be expelled from membership of a miners’ welfare club. To use an example, someone who commits unacceptable acts—let us call them acts of drunken rage and violence—could well be excluded from the club. If they are, it would be absurd for the club to be defined, in terms of sport, as not open to all the public. The issue of membership that is open, but controlled in this case by charity law, and the potential contradiction with the CASC model, is one that it is vital to correct.
My second point may overlap with the first, but it certainly has different variations, and relates to the fact that the club has a bar. Where a sports club determines that it will have a clubhouse—an aspiration of most sports clubs in my area—and manages to get a bar, some conflict about the definition of membership re-emerges. Membership for the bar will be for people aged 18 and over, but membership of the sports club will be open to everybody, certainly including all under-18s. Again, that seems to have caused some problems for HMRC.
I want confirmation from the Minister either that such issues have been sorted out, or, if they are still emerging, that it is the Government’s intent that such bureaucratic obstacles should not prevent those clubs from becoming community amateur sports clubs. In areas such as mine, the incredible growth in sport over the past five or six years is due to the fact that the old miners’ welfares have become modern miners’ welfares, and they are, in traditional style, getting vast numbers of young people playing a full range of sports. Without question, the fastest growth of sport across the north of England is through those clubs. They should be able to benefit, if they wish, from the CASC model, but I fear that complications remain.