A Licensed Club in Sydney For Football

During the 1960s the NSW Australian Football League, operating under a separate title and office bearers, attempted to obtain a liquor licence and operate a licensed club.

This was in the days when licensed clubs in NSW proliferated and were making money hand over fist – all tax free.  Basically, because they were non-profit organisations (the profits ostensibly being reinvested into benefits for their members) they were not subject to paying tax!!  In this case however, although they tried had and did have some smart people in charge their actions were eventually unsuccessful.

Here, we reproduce part of the organisation’s ninth annual report from 1966 which outlines the progress thus far and written by the secretary, Jack Hammond who was also on the Western Suburbs FC Board of Management and for some years, treasurer of the NSWAFL.  It provides a rather in-depth look of what action the group had taken over the previous 12 months and although a long read, is very interesting. (we do not have any other annual reports from the applicant)

Jack Hammond NSW AFL Treasurer & Board Member 1967-74

“…. Legal advice is that the Board wind up the club as it now stands, as it would not be possible to approach the Licensing Court successfully under the present Articles of Association because they have been breached on too many occasions, therefore a new club be formed in the very near future to take its place. The Board was hoping for the winding up of the club to be carried out in conjunction with or immediately following this Annual Meeting so as to avoid putting you to the trouble of coming out again on another night, but evidently the time is not yet opportune for this step to be taken. Future reports will be in the name of the new club, New South Wales Australian Football Club Ltd., which name was selected by the present Board and who will be the signatories of the new Memorandum and Articles of Association. Prior to the 1965 Annual Meeting the retiring Board of Directors were given the legal opinion they had little opportunity of obtaining a liquor licence unless the club became closely identified with the New South Wales Australian National Football League and to their credit, with two exceptions, they did not stand for office so as to allow the members of the League to take over from them to concur with the said legal opinion. Just how fully this move was taken advantage of by the League can be gauged from the fact that eight out of eleven of the Board of Management of the League became Directors as well as being permitted the use of their premises, 64 Regent Street, as the club’s registered office and meeting rooms. I personally sympathise with those gentlemen whose efforts over the years were so frustrated, as I myself was connected with an unsuccessful application for a licence, so I have some idea what their feeling of disappointment was like. Later on I was connected with the successful application of the Western Suburbs club, so when the above information was brought down to the League I took the opportunity of accepting the position of Secretary to see if the experience gained in the two prior applications mentioned can be applied again successfully on behalf of the League.

I am fortunate in this present venture of having the services of the foundation President and Secretary of Wests in the persons of Charlie Stephens and Bill Hart, respectively. Both these gentlemen’s knowledge and experience of licensing laws and court procedure is proving of immeasurable value. This report should cover the period of January to December, 1965, but unfortunately I have little knowledge of what took place before May. A lack of interest due to the aforementioned legal opinion found the club (the writer refers to ‘the club’ as the group he is writing about) in a run-down condition. This prevented a quorum being obtained at the Annual Meeting. It was thus found necessary to hold a further two adjourned meetings, which took us well into May before being able to finalise the original Annual Meeting. Therefore it was on the last day of May before the present Directors were able to hold their first Board meeting. The first assignment confronting the new Board was to bring the Board up to its full complement of Dire:tors and Office Bearers. Under the Articles the President of the League is an automatic appointment, plus a further two members to be appointed by the League. A letter to the League soon put this matter in order and bringing back the information that

Tom McGrath

President Tom McGrath was prepared to conform with the Articles and accept a position of Director, and the other two appointees were League Secretary Jack Regan and Reg Symes. This brought the Board up to full strength; as a matter of fact, when counted up it was found there was one Director too many. I feel this was a small sign of the interest that was to be aroused in the next six months. Mr. Jack Maher, who had other commitments on sub-committees of the League, decided to resign, which resignation the Board accepted and thanked Jack for his co-operation. The offices that were vacant were two Vice-Presidents. These were filled by Messrs. John Stewart and Ken Stephens, and an Assistant Secretary, Mr. Graham Pile accepting this position. With the Board and Office Bearers at full strength the next move was to bring the Club into line with the Registrar of Companies, which necessitated a notification of change of address from Sussex Street to Regent Street, and the change in Directors. Whilst on this subject I would like to thank Treasurer Sid Smith, whose help was invaluable to me in the filing of these documents with the Registrar General’s Department, as I had no knowledge of the workings of this Government Department. Sid’s nicely typed copies of the above documents for my own files will be an asset when forming the new club. The next step to be taken was the all important approach to our legal firm of Smithers, Warren and Lyons, to see if they were still prepared to carry on with our brief, as contact with them had been lost by the previous Board. This contact took longer than expected and it was mainly through the efforts of Director John Stewart that contact was finally made. We were unfortunate that the Empire Law Conference was being held in Sydney at the time we wanted to see our solicitor. He held a very high position at this conference, which made him a very busy man. A deputation from the Board was very cordially received and given the good news that they were still prepared to act on our behalf. We were also given the information of the winding up of the club, as mentioned in the first paragraph. This is the stage we have reached at present. This may not appear as though we have progressed very far, but I fed we have laid a solid foundation which you will agree is necessary if a firm structure is to be built.

PREMISES  (most interesting)
These are a must for a club and second only to the all-important licence. I did not realise when we assumed office that almost immediately we would start inspecting premises or that so many offers would come to hand. Our first offer came through Mr. Rod Dixon, of the Sydney-Naval Club, and it was for the first floor of Mick Simmons Sports Store in George Street. Upon inspection, the size of this floor was quite surprising, extending from Hay to Goulburn Streets. These premises sparked off a debate on the Board as to the suitability of city as opposed to suburban premises. Pre-war there would have been no doubts but today the city is being slowly superseded by the suburbs in commercial life, as instanced by the demise of big stores at that end of town in Marcus Clarks and Sydney Snow. Anthony Horderns, perhaps the best known store in Sydney, who have been operating for over a century, have traded at a loss over the last few years. This no doubt is due to the fact that motor car people will just not come into the city, with its parking problems. The trend today is the building of projects like Roselands, with its multiple storey parking area. A club can be taken on the same lines as the above if you take into consideration the 10 district Rugby League Clubs, who are all prospering immensely and are in the main outer suburbs, so at the present it looks as though the suburbs will win out if and when we get started.

Our second offer was the Concord R.S.L. Club. President Charlie Stephens put a lot of hard work into obtaining these premises and at one stage, through his efforts we had an option on this building. Concord Council refused to keep the area as licensed premises, thus causing us a bitter disappointment. These premises were just what we wanted to commence operations, being quite within our scope financially, no opposition from hotels or other clubs, and situated in the midst of a thickly populated area, which would have provided us with ready made patronage. On our visit to our legal firm we mentioned this club and the danger area that could be seen in it was its situation for a headquarters club. After discussion it was found Concord was near the centre of Sydney, so quite within easy travelling distance for the 10 local affiliated clubs. In passing, I would like to mention the part played by Director Tom McGrath, who on our second visit to Concord to meet the committee formed to dispose of these premises stood in for President C. Stephens, who was interstate on business, and presented our case very ably and swayed them over to our side from other bidders, thus finalising the deal started off so well by Charlie. A third offer was received from one of our members in the person of Mr. W. C. Allen. These premises were under review some few years ago by the previous Board, but I believe their financial arran~ements were not acceptable to either their legal representative or the licensing authorities. A deputation from the new Board carried out an inspection of these premises at the invitation of Mr. Allen. We stated our views and financial standing to Mr. Allen, who agreed to draw up a -proposition for consideration by us. We are at present awaitin~ his reply.

A fourth offer came from another member, Mr. C. H. King, whose premises are in Rockdale. The Board is reviewing this last offer so they will be reported on in the next year’s renort. These two gentlemen followed my reports in the Bulletin of the Concord R.S.L. and when they fell through they came to hand with the premises I have mentioned and owned by them. If nothing comes of any of the above propositions we have a gentleman prepared to back us financially and if necessary build new premises on a leasing basis, so I feel we are well covered in the area of premises.

I have in my possession a letter dated 1956 which was in reply to my original application to join the club. In the intervening years I have been a member on and off, simply because there was no contact from those in authority and one did not know if the club was still operating until a new committee had taken office and fresh approaches made to once again become financial, so when I accepted the position of Secretary, I had the idea of avoiding what had happened in the past and somehow keep in touch with the members, thus keeping them informed of the club’s progress and the work being carried out by the Board on their behalf, hence our news sheet, the Bulletin. Through it I have gained much valuable information about the membership. Many notifications have been received about changes of address, some retiring to holiday resorts, others leaving the forces to return to civil life. Some have left addresses without leaving a forwarding address, and most unfortunately I have received notification that some half-dozen members have passed away. The last two offers of premises were received through the medium of the Bulletin by the two gentlemen mentioned earlier, they following our efforts to obtain a club site through the Bulletin. When I started the Bulletin I had no idea it would become a much travelled news sheet. Quite a few of our members belong to the fighting forces, becoming members when based in Sydney. Over the years some have been transferred to fields apart, but this has not let their enthusiasm wane towards the club. These members notified me of their transfer and that they still wished to receive the Bulletin. It goes into the airfields of Richmond, Williamtown and Darwin, the Victoria Barracks, army camps lngleburn and Holsworthy, to an army camp at Canberra; it goes onto many of Her Majesty’s Naval ships including the aircraft carrier Melbourne, also the Naval Base at Nowra. It also goes to civilians who have shifted out to country centres like Leura on the Blue Mountains and Condobolin. My gratitude goes to Jack Magner for giving me the introduction to the people who produce the Bulletin gratis for us, and to them, Mr. Dave Willoughby and his competent typiste Mrs. Abbott, many thanks from all club members. To Director Bill Hart we owe a debt of gratitude for the conveyance of the Bulletin to the members. It is surprising the amount of people who have approached me through the Bulletin. Most have expressed their appreciation of it and look forward each month to its arrival. This in itself gives me the incentive to keep on with it as well as compensating a little for the efforts that go into it.

I would like to touch lightly on this subject in passing. I do not intend to intrude into the Treasurer’s area, as this department is in very capable hands, but there are two things I would like to say, firstly we have operated in the past year on a minimum of finance, on a shoestring as the saying goes. This fact is due in the main to help from two sources which consist of Boards and for obvious reasons I cannot mention names. Secondly, we are all unfinancial members and it was the decision of the Board at one of its earliest meetings that subscriptions would not be called for until we can see our way clear for an approach to the Court and the obtaining of suitable premises. As you can see by this report these two subjects are being pursued fully. I hope the time is not too distant when that all important approach can be made to once again become financial. When that time does come you will receive notification through the Bulletin.

The need of a club was never more vital to the League than at the present time. The game itself is moving forward, as instanced by the backing of some big business houses, and the visits of Melbourne League clubs – seven out of the twelve in the past two years. The League has nowhere to entertain these teams, who number amongst their supporters some of the most prominent men in Australia. When North Melbourne came up the season before last, Mr. Arthur Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition in Federal Parliament, accompanied them. He is the No. 1 ticket holder of this club, and he had to be entertained under the grandstand at Trumper Park – not a very satisfactory place for the entertainment of such a prominent person. The League could have found itself in the same position with our recently retired Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, had the Carlton Club visited Sydney, as he is a member of that club and watches as many of their matches as possible. Last year two teams from Melbourne played a match on the Sydney Cricket Ground, with the League having no place to entertain them. They had to depend on an affiliated district club, thus forcing their own officials into the background, which is far from a satisfactory position to be in, being the hosts of these teams whilst in Sydney. Football teams from  every State in Australia are now visiting us, both in and out of season, like the Western Australian club side who will be here next January.

The Melbourne and Geelong teams passed through Sydney, both coming and going on a trip to America, with the Melbourne side being entertained by the N.S.W. Rugby League Club, a fine gesture to a rival code of football, but a ridiculous position for our League to be in as the governing body of a major sport in this State. I thought I would mention these facts in passing, as I feel this proves the need for a club as required by the Licensing Court and a major reason why we were advised legally for the two to be joined together. The Court does not look too favourably on those forming a club for purely financial reasons, whilst admittedly money is all important as a propagation medium for our code. A very fine liaison exists at present between the Board of Management of the League and the Directors of the Club, and I hope these cordial relations continue in the future. On behalf of the Directors I would like to thank the League Board for its co-operation and help in the last year.

My report would not be complete if I did not pay tribute to my fellow Directors. The unity and co-operation shown to me in my first year of office was really wonderful and in the long run can only spell success, and I look forward to the future with pleasure and enthtisiasm and not the little misgivings I had when accepting the position’ of Secretary last year. At the grand final of the football last year Director Tom McGrath was badly affected by the heat of that day and had a sojourn in hospital, thus causing us to lose his most valuable services for a few months at the end of last year. We were all pleased to learn that Tom is back to good health again. Another blow suffered by the Board is the announced resignation of League Secretary Jack Regan, who is also a Director. I will miss Jack immensely as he often went out of his way to perform many acts of courtesy for me, and no matter what I asked of him it was always done with a smile and without ever the slightest hint of trouble. A great help to me through the year has been my assistant,

Grahame Pile, who at all times is prepared to help with the running around so necessary in a venture as large as ours. Grahame is also prepared to carry out many jobs on my behalf. One that readily comes to mind is our dub shingle at the entrance to Regent Street, which was made and erected by him. I can’t imagine how I would have got this erected without Grahame’s help. So to each and every Director, thanks for your help and co-operation in the past year.

In conclusion, as in all reports such as this at the last moment they have a tendency to become rushed, and mine is no exception, so if I have missed some item or some person I offer my sincere apologies. For and on behalf of the Board of Directors,

Hon. Secretary”

Jack indeed was a hard working and dedicated disciple of Australian Football in Sydney.  He held several positions in a number of football organisations and was a very hard worker for the code and his parent club, Western Suburbs.  An interview with Jack can be heard on our podcast section here.  If you want to listen, it is in two parts and you will have to go back to the podcast section to download the second edition.

Although there were 200 odd members of the club, as you can read was a certain amount of apathy,  Their efforts to establish a licensed club was unsuccessful not only because of this but two of the main ‘promoters’ of the scheme, died, plus the group had next to no money.

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