Legion faces fight for survival

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THE future of Coleraine Royal British Legion Club is hanging in the balance after it was given a last minute reprieve at the weekend.

The Beresford Avenue premises will stay open for another couple of weeks but is facing closure because of its dire financial plight.

The Branch Committee took the decision to shut the doors last Wednesday night.

However it reopened at the weekend amid new hopes it could be saved.

Chairman Nigel Law - himself a member for 32 years - said: “We will stay open for another couple of weeks and will hopefully meet with the Chairman of the NI Branch as soon as possible following advice we received from across the water.

The Legion is a charity so we will have to see what can be done for us.

“It’s a slim, last chance otherwise we will just have to go into insolvency.”

Speaking of the club’s financial struggle to stay in existence, he said:

“Members are just not supporting us as much as they used to. We have overheads and bills we cannot pay.

“A couple of months ago we looked at the situation but it’s clear that we cannot sustain staying open the way things are.

“We have been contacted by the chairman of the British Legion in England to see if there’s anything we can do so at the moment we are in limbo.

“Apparently we need an extraordinary general meeting with members to allow us to close it but our members want to keep the place open.

“The chairman of the British Legion wants a meeting with us to see what can be done.” In response to a letter from the Branch for financial help, about 50 members donated around £800 in recent weeks. The UDR Association also provided £250 - but those contributions are unlikely to provide a long term future for the club.

Mr Law said: “We have a membership of 400 but British Legion clubs are closing all around the country.

“On a Saturday night we would have a hardcore regulars of about 50 people or on a good night 120, but that’s not enough.”

The Royal British Legion is the UK’s leading service charity which provides practical care, advice and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families.

Mr Law said part of the problem for the club was the lack of participation by the younger generations.

“The younger generation are not using the club any more and some of the older members can’t get there any longer,” he said.

“Of course you have extra people coming now and again depending on what entertainment is put on.

“The bottom line is that our bills are starting to gather up. We are beating our heads against a brick wall.

“Although, probably, if our debt was cleared we could sustain the way we are going - but not at the minute.”

“The club has been here for more than 70 years and it is very sad,” he said.

“But if we can’t fill the place, we can’t keep the place going.