Essex club Frinton are appealing for help after learning they were ineligible for a coronavirus grant that could save them. And it could happen to any club

Frinton should be celebrating their 125th anniversary right now – instead the Essex club are wondering if this year could be their last after they were unable to get hold of a potentially business-saving Government grant.

They have appealed to local MP Giles Watling, who sits on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport committee, about their “parlous” state which, they believe, will be echoed at clubs up and down the UK.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the globe, the Government have made provisions for some businesses operating in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to qualify for a grant of up to £25,000.

A proviso is that the rateable value of that business – which is set by the Valuation Office Agency and used by councils to calculate business rates bills – is less than £51,000.

In a letter to Watling, Simon Martin-Redman, a club director and former captain, wrote there was an “anomaly with regard to golf clubs”.

He says, because of the amount of land clubs have, their rateable value is often over-exaggerated in relation to the size of their premises.

Martin-Redman warned his club’s cash balances will be depleted within the next six weeks and, without cash input, they could be forced into administration.

Talking to NCG, he said he wanted to highlight a situation he fears could “apply to the majority of clubs nationwide”.

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Martin-Redman said Watling has since passed on the letter to the Treasury, who have acknowledged receipt. He wrote: “Due to the amount of ‘land’ golf clubs have, the rateable value is over exaggerated in relation to size of premise. Using Frinton Golf Club as an example (and I am sure Clacton is similar) our ‘Rateable Value’ is approximately £89,000.

“Nevertheless. we are still a small business with a turnover of approximately £1 million and we employ 13 members of staff.

“With the course now closed, due to Government distancing restrictions, we are in a parlous state. Within the next four to six weeks our cash balances will be depleted.

“This is exacerbated as we are at the end of our subscription year and subscriptions are not due for another two to three months.  Persuading people to pay when the course is closed is another challenge.

“Without a cash input we could be forced to go into administration. We have managed to secure an overdraft but the Grant would have helped a great deal.

“Although I am writing to you parochially, this is a generic issue that could apply to the majority of golf clubs nationwide.

“I bring it to your attention, as not only as our local MP, but also with your DCMS Committee membership, the generic issue is probably more important. For information, I have also highlighted the situation to England Golf but as of yet have had no response.

“I hope Giles you can please help as you know that Frinton Golf Club has been here since 1895 and survived two World Wars (even with the course being used as a minefield!)  However, this problem is a very real and pressing one.”

Speaking to NCG, Martin-Redman added: “This is exacerbated because our membership is so small. Being a coastal golf club, we don’t have the catchment area of others because we only have 180 degrees with the sea behind us.

“Our membership is less than 300 playing members. We have 700 or 800 social members and we are one of the few clubs in the country where our catering and our clubhouse makes more money than the golf course. Our food is phenomenal but we are not getting that income in at the moment.

“We’ve done the usual things, such as furlough. We have a small board of six, who all have a lot of financial acumen, and we have got an overdraft from the bank and are applying for the business loans scheme.

“But every year, we only just break even or make a small surplus and three or four years ago we were making a loss. By good financial acumen we just break even every year and this is going to really hit us hard.

“We’re not alone. It’s affecting many other golf clubs throughout the country. It is an anomaly. The Treasury have been phenomenal around the UK in trying to help businesses and they can’t think of every scenario. This is probably one that’s slipped through the net.

“In Frinton, the cricket club got the grant, the tennis club got it, the yacht club got it and the golf club didn’t. We’re the least wealthy of all the clubs.”

Is your club affected by this? If so I want to hear from you. Get in touch by leaving a comment below or tweeting me.

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