Merimbula clubs agree merger secures future

Merimbula RSL Board president Graeme Williams and Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club chairman Gerry Hammond, seated, with fellow board members. Back from left, John Crawford, Peter Moore, Gary Telford, Terry Killen, John Finn, Allan Browning, Brian Kennedy, David Rankin, Phil Cheek, Ian Martin and Ron Christie. The two boards signed an agreement to move forward with amalgamation on Monday.

Merimbula RSL Board president Graeme Williams and Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club chairman Gerry Hammond, seated, with fellow board members. Back from left, John Crawford, Peter Moore, Gary Telford, Terry Killen, John Finn, Allan Browning, Brian Kennedy, David Rankin, Phil Cheek, Ian Martin and Ron Christie. The two boards signed an agreement to move forward with amalgamation on Monday.

Merimbula RSL Club and Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club have reached agreement on a marriage of equals to assure the long-term survival of both clubs.

The two club boards have revealed the agreement to their combined membership of 14,000 which sets out the nuts and bolts of the merger. Members will make the final decision at special general meetings of the two clubs later in the year.

RSL Board president Graeme Williams and Bowling Club chairman Gerry Hammond said signing the agreement was an historic moment for the clubs, Merimbula and the Sapphire Coast community.

“The two boards have consulted with members to finalise an agreement that delivers benefits of a merged club to the entire membership.

“To reach this stage, we invited members of both clubs to join the conversation and provide feedback. In response to concerns the RSL Sub-Branch Executive raised, we invited them to meet and review the draft agreement.

“Regrettably the Sub-Branch pulled out of that meeting at the final hour but we firmly believe we have addressed all concerns and that the benefits of a merger far outweigh the alternative of maintaining the status quo.”

Mr Williams and Mr Hammond said the boards were excited at the opportunities the agreement presented for staff, members, the broader community and visitors to the Sapphire Coast.

“This paves the way for a bright future for our clubs and it is an honour to be part of such a significant development for our region.”

Mr Hammond and Mr Williams said it was now over to the members of both clubs to get involved in creating a strong future for the community-based clubs.

“We encourage all members to get involved in the decision-making of this important development,” they said. “It is up to them to decide.”

Mr Hammond said the two boards worked hard to ensure the merger model would provide better job security and career paths, maintain strong RSL and veteran traditions and enable better bowling facilities.

The long-term proposal for the merged club is for premises to be at 119 Main Street because the RSL building is land-locked and does not allow for surrounding development opportunities.

The merged club will have dedicated space for ANZAC memorabilia and a bowler’s lounge, provide development and investment opportunities and bring more tourist dollars into Merimbula via a larger conference and entertainment venue. The merged club will also have improved disabled access and provide better parking.

Business, sporting, tourism and community groups have thrown their support behind the merger. Clubs NSW has also endorsed the initiative.

ClubsNSW chief executive officer Anthony Ball said: “Over the years, we have seen clubs close because they have been more focused on short-term goals rather than taking time to look at the long-term viability of their venue. That is why ClubsNSW commends the Merimbula RSL Club and the Merimbula-Imlay Bowling Club for having this discussion now, while both clubs are trading well. Having this conversation now means that the community has the opportunity to gain a strong amalgamated club that will be in a position to continue the great work both these clubs do for future generations.”

The two clubs started seriously discussing merger plans after the RSL called for expressions of interest for a partner club in June last year. Mr Williams said long-term strategic planning by the RSL painted a bleak long-term future and a merger with another club now was preferable to a takeover.

“Before we called for expressions of interest we analysed every possible option to sustain and maintain the RSL Club but every analysis brought us back to the same place – if we didn’t find an amalgamation partner we could not guarantee our staff’s jobs and providing the standards of facilities and services we currently provide.”

·The boards signed the agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding, on Monday. It can be viewed on both club websites and is on display in the two clubs.

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