Fraud ruled out at social club that faces battle for survival

A SOCIAL club which has seen its membership dramatically reduced from 1500 members to 600 in just a matter of years is fighting for survival.

Blakeborough Social and Sports Club, which is ''asset-rich but cash-poor'', has been locked in a dispute over the proposed sale of its bowling club but at least one issue has been resolved with police now confirming a year-long investigation into alleged fraud and theft at the club has been completed with no evidence of wrongdoing found.

Problems started at the club in Bradford Road, Brighouse, when attempts were made to sell off the Albion Bowling Club in Halifax Road.

Selling the bowling club for more than 225,000 was seen as a way of raising money and securing the social club's future but the proposal led to a huge rift between different factions as bowling club members offered 60,000 instead.

In December 2009 allegations of fraud totalling 250,000 were made and police seized 10 boxes of documents from the Social and Sports Club including bank statements, invoices, cheque books and cash books.

The Yorkshire Post has seen a copy of the report which concludes that "the club has been in decline for several years. It has been going the way of many pubs and clubs in the area. There is no evidence to support the fact that the club finds itself in this position because of fraud or theft by one or more committee members.

"They (club officials) are fighting a losing battle to keep the club solvent. They are, when all is said and done, volunteers who give of their time to help run the club.

"The police have now concluded their investigations and the complainants have been made aware of the investigation."

Committee member Andy Taylor said he was relieved that the investigation was over. "Brighouse is a little town and we have had a lot of stick over this but fortunately I knew the people who were making these allegations could never back them up. There was no proof.

"You get a bit disheartened and a year is a long time to have this sort of thing hanging over you but we have a simple rule book and we play by the rules. People should realise there is no fiddling going on here."

As to the future of the club he said he thought that ultimately it had a bright future though it was costing the club thousands of pounds to fight the civil court action being brought against it by members of the bowling club who want to protect the future of the well-used facility.

Mr Taylor said: "This club has spent 5,000 so far and we may be looking at as much as 15,000 when it is all done. We should have sold the bowling club at the height of the property boom and we still have a lot of support for doing so – 400 members have signed a form saying they think we should do that.

"The trouble is that we are a cash-strapped but asset-rich club and we are big club too with three floors and a lot of maintenance work.

"We are all amateurs and we need more people coming in – five years ago we had 1,300 members and now we have 600."

He said a meeting would be held to discuss the findings of the report.

Andy Speechley, a spokesman for the bowling club, said he was disappointed with the police report and would be holding a meeting with Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker in Halifax town hall on January 28 to discuss his concerns and the future of the long-running dispute.

He said: "We didn't expect a great deal from it. We just asked the police to investigate the claims that were being made regarding the management of the club. I would like to see both clubs running OK and all the litigation sorted out this year though it is going to run and run.

"We have made an appointment with our MP to raise our concerns. There will be legal action at Halifax County Court later this year."