Club members vote against sale

With a non-binding show of hands it was obvious that the majority of the Raglan Club members that turned up to a special meeting on Sunday didn’t want to sell the property to get out of debt.

Depending on who is telling the story, over 300 or 500 members turned up for the meeting that had the sale of the Bow St premises on its agenda.

Opinions are also divided on whether there was meant to be an official vote that day regarding an offer that could or could not be worth about $5 million or more, but after about three hours of heated debate a motion was put forward to have a non-binding show of hands.

It was about 60:40 against, or 75:25 by another account – still, it was an obvious majority.

In the end, the members made their feelings clear, and perhaps more voted with their hearts than their minds.

Members need to remember that the situation that the Club is in, that it is about $150,000 in debt and losing money every week, is not going to go away, says Raglan Club president Colin Sullivan.

It’s been a long road to get to this point, at least a year of negotiations, and an end is certainly not in sight without a solution – looking ahead, it seems perhaps there will just be more unrest and division.

There are calls for more transparency when it comes to making plans for the Club’s future, with members saying that any sale should be on the open market, not behind closed doors – Colin calls the path that was taken “respecting commercial sensitivity” and getting the best offer, what he says is 54 per cent above a registered valuation.

There’s also been unrest in the executive.

According to Colin, there is a certain member of the executive who had voiced his independent support in committee but in the public arena has “spouted the opposite, and told untruths with regard to certain facts that affect the future of the Club”; then there are “certain individuals who have tried to hijack the process” with “out and out lies”, petitions and “far-fetched ideas” such as developing the road front of the property, a solution that has been looked into in the past and didn’t fly.

“People say we need more members but we need more members to support the Club,” says Colin, who isn’t fazed by the dissent – it’s par for the course in a large club, he reckons.

Colin says members aren’t visiting more despite knowing the financial strife the club is in, and which is largely due to lack of patronage.

“They say they will come down more but they haven’t. A lot of people that spoke against the sale don’t utilise the Club.

“We also need certain members to pull their heads in and be more welcoming to fellow members. We need more members to visit us and make themselves more aware of the dire situation the Club is in by inquiring and absorbing the information that is available from the people who are at the coalface, and not listen to and take on board absolute crap from people with personal agendas.”

At the meeting – which was members only, and they had to prove their identification – things got a bit personal and heated.

Two offers were put on the table, but both without any real substance, according to detractors. They were: “at least $5m” from Sanjay Sharma, owner-operator of Raglan SuperValue, which was actually made up of $3.5m and a house in Cliff St; and $4.5m from Surfside Church.

Options for relocation included the West Coast Health centre property and the building consisting of Orca Restaurant and Bar, which is deemed a conflict of interest due to Colin owning shares.

A further option to relocate to the Raglan Bowling Club, which the Club owns, has been deemed “fraught with difficulties” and taken off the table.

Colin says since the meeting there has been some investigation into suggestions made on Sunday to sell off part of the Bow St property or sell the Bowling Club and build a new green at the Club. And both offers for sale are still on the table.

“We are supportive of trying to stay on the site but the fact of the matter is we have to come up with a working format that is not based on supposition.”

It also has to be kept in mind that the building is too big for the number of patrons that support the Club, its size and age makes it costly to run, and it is in bad need of some TLC and maintenance.

“If members could come up with a viable solution we would grab it with both hands.”

Club member of 30 years Andreas Broring, who has been hard out campaigning against the sale of the Club, including coming up with his own concept for “Raglan Central”, says there has to be better communication from the executive regarding plans for the Club’s future to avoid distrust and bad feelings.

He says the information given to members at the meeting had no substance to it, “there was nothing in writing, no reports by lawyers, nothing seen as being the truth, just Colin saying ‘trust me’ without giving any evidence”.

“People wanted more information and Colin was not providing it.”

Andreas say it wasn’t even clear who a sale would be to – Sanjay or the Surfside Church.

“And the members probably understood that if they voted to sell they don’t know where they are going – there is no vision.”

Club member Lee Knight, who was forced to attend the meeting by this writer, says it was clear that the members were really passionate about the Club.

“The questions being asked reflected that people thought the Club hasn’t been following its own policies of communication to the members. Maybe it wasn’t a dishonest move to start with but based on a unique situation that they didn’t know how to cope with.

“Looking around you could see some people that were totally and utterly genuinely concerned and hurt that they haven’t been consulted with properly.

“Maybe people would have been more open if the communication had been done properly right from the beginning.”

Inger Vos