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President’s Letter

This is a copy of the letter that our President sent to all the membership by post on 1st October.

1st October, 2012

Dear fellow Member,

At the Club’s Annual General Meeting in July, I appraised those present that the Club was seeking legal opinion on whether the Club’s guest policy was fully compliant with the Equality Act 2010. This advice was being sought as a result of a letter from a Club Member, to the Committee, indicating that the practice of excluding ladies as guests at lunch and dinner, may be unlawful.

A Special Meeting of the Club’s Committee was held on Tuesday, 18th September to discuss the legal advice subsequently received. The advice received confirmed that, following the coming into force of the Equality Act , the Club should treat all guests the same and that inviting ladies to certain events but excluding them from lunch and dinner would breach the requirements of the Act. I can report to you that, following full consideration of the advice by the Committee, and ensuring that the Club fully complies with the law, the following motion was proposed:

“The Club should continue as a gentlemen’s club and should adhere to a male only guest policy at all times, with the exception of when the Club is booked by a Member for a private party”.

The motion was carried unanimously by the thirteen Committee members present. A letter in support was received from one of the three absentee Committee members.

You will appreciate that as a gentlemen’s club this is in strict adherence to the rules which were only recently updated in 2011. It is with great regret that, now that the Committee is fully appraised of the law, we can no longer invite ladies to attend certain of our Club events as we have done in the past.

However, when the Club is booked by a Member for his own private party then the law does allow ladies to attend, and I’m pleased to say that this practice will continue.

The Savile Club has kindly agreed to continue to offer our Members, who wish to entertain a lady to lunch or dinner, the opportunity to do so in the Savile Club Dining Room, Bar and Drawing Room.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Edwards,

President

19 thoughts on “President’s Letter

  1. I would be interested to know
    i) if the Committee has in recent years canvassed opinion amongst all the Members as to whether they might be in favour of changing the constitution to allow ladies to become members;
    ii)if the Committee plans to survey Members’ views on this, and if so, when, and
    iii) if there are no plans to do so – what is the correct procedure for
    – a)asking the Committee to consider doing so
    and
    – b)raising this as a topic for airing amongst all Members
    With thanks
    Michael Davis

  2. Profile photo of
    gordon wickstrom

    At our club dinner over here in Denver on September 13, just past, we had a ravishment of ladies at the table. It is impossible for me to imagine the glittering success and probity of our evening without them. We were in the nick of time, by a hair’s breadth. I shall have to report this official action of the Flyfishers’ Club to the thirty-three who sat together in the splendor of the Brown Palace Hotel, who ate their lamb, drank their port, and heard fine and solemn talk of what is to become of our sport. We might have talked of what is to become of the ladies.

  3. I strongly support Michael Davis’ point.
    Whilst prepared to go along with the wishes of the majority of members in principle, I believe we should ascertain what they are–and that the committee can be properly accused of not acting in the interests of the members unless and until it has done so.Personally, I feel that we should open membership to women on the same careful basis that we have for the selection of male members.And that we should not place ourselves in the same ridiculous anti-feminine camp as the Church–a separate issue, but an important one.
    If the majority of members want us to stay male-only, I should like to have the opportunity together with others to persuade them otherwise in open debate.

  4. I particularly agree with Michael Davis and Peter Hayes’s comments. I request that the Committee now canvas all members about women membership – as long as they are fly fishers and subscribe to the ethos of the club. I was prepared, as I believe were many others who support women membership, to accept the existing status quo, but if they now can’t come to any of our functions, that changes the nature of the club.

  5. I totally agree with Anthony Lowes’ comments. I consider the Committee were correct to obtain legal advice – we’ve obviouly got to operate within the law. I’ll leave it to others to decide whether the law is an ass in this instance. But this is the start of the debate, not the end of it. Faced with what looks like being a total change in the nature of the Club I believe that the Committee are duty bound to canvas all members about women membership. Peter Hayes’ comment about the Church is well made.

  6. I think this is a sadly retrograde step.Does it mean that I can’t invite my wife and daughters to the summer event,as I have in the past, and meet my friends’ families?How sad.I doubt very much that the lunch table will be overrun by ladies who lunch (and don’t mind if it is).Further,the ladies’ presence will make no difference to and ,indeed,in my opinion, enhance, any of our members’ events.Meanwhile, good for the Savile.Can’t we follow their example?

  7. I am happy to see that – to date – comments are in favour of having the Committee ask Members their views about changing the constitution to allow lady members (carefully selected, of course).
    I am in favour of allowing lady members for these reasons:
    1. Equality of the sexes. (The world has changed since the club’s constitution was drawn up, as evidenced by the law on which the committee had to take advice).
    2. Womens’ relevance to fly fishing. (From Dame Juliana Berners, through Georgina Ballantine, to Joan Wulff and Jean Howman today, to pick two random examples, women have been and are a part of fly fishing. Would most of us have heard of pheromones otherwise?)
    3. Commercial potential. (Why limit the membership to approximately 50% of the population, IF increasing the income is a desirable goal for the future?).
    These are but one person’s views – before I have had the chance to hear the views of others, and perhaps change my own as a result.
    I ask the Committee to hear an open debate amongst all Members, without which they are, I fear, acting on assumptions rather than knowledge of what the membership thinks about allowing ladies to join the club.

  8. If members recall, we approved the new rules of the club in 2010. Perhaps the issue of lady members should have been raised then? It was not, and rule one of the club was approved to remain as ‘for gentleman’. This issue has been somewhat forced on the committee and I fully support their position and Antony’s letter.

  9. Two questions please arising from MorganHJones, above:
    i) Were all members’ views canvassed openly prior to the meeting is 2010?
    ii) If an issue arises from Members can it not be debated within the Club, by Members and the Committee, regardless of earlier decisions?
    Thanks

  10. I think the point is that many of us would have been prepared to continue to accept the status quo, which we understood to be that we were a gentleman’s club to which lady guests could be invited under certain circumstances, but we are now advised that this is not the case. This is why the matter has to be revisted.

  11. In Response to Anthony’s letter to me of today–no doubt not dissimilar from those to others commenting in this forum:-
    Thanks Anthony.
    Yes I agree, very difficult.
    However, you and the Committee clearly never had any intention of finding out what members want, and you still don’t.
    In my eyes, that’s no way to run a club.
    By all means fix the legal problem expeditiously, but for heavens sake give the members a plan for dealing with the real underlying problem–even this letter you’ve sent me now is just a stone-waller.
    I repeat what I said in the Forum, and you haven’t dealt with it !

    “Whilst prepared to go along with the wishes of the majority of members in principle, I believe we should ascertain what they are–and that the committee can be properly accused of not acting in the interests of the members unless and until it has done so.Personally, I feel that we should open membership to women on the same careful basis that we have for the selection of male members.And that we should not place ourselves in the same ridiculous anti-feminine camp as the Church–a separate issue, but an important one.
    If the majority of members want us to stay male-only, I should like to have the opportunity together with others to persuade them otherwise in open debate.”

    Ask our legal advisors what the committee should do to avoid failing to represent it’s members’ wishes , and you will get a different answer in terms of the action they should have taken on this.

    I’m not cross, not yet, but I hate to see the club getting things this wrong.
    I think you have to go further than re-describing what you have done and saying how difficult it is.
    When you say in your today’s letter “If the members wish to change the club’s customs or rules then the rules clearly set out the methodology.” you are not setting out to manage a discussion but instead inviting revolt,saying that the means to change things lies in the members hands, setting dissenters against the committee which would/will be very bad for the club indeed.
    I urge you to find a better and more civilised way forward by which none of us are forced to get hot under the collar !

  12. Dear Anthony

    Thank you for your letter, and my apologies for such a delayed response.

    I understand the difficulty that the Committee found itself in in having to deal with the immediate question that was raised, and how the Committee took a decision to deal with this – in the short term.

    However your letter fails to address fully the point I have raised: about considering opening membership to both sexes – for the long term.

    If you read the messages left by myself, and others, on the website, you will see that some members are asking that this issue is now given an open airing.

    If I address the specifics in your letter, you lay out “Option 1 – to allow ladies at all time to all events…..requires a change in our current practice and would almost certainly merit a ballot of all the membership”
    but then you make no further comment on this, and express no view of the Committee, apart from saying
    “If the members wish to change the club’s customs or rules then the rules clearly set out the methodolgy.”

    So I have turned to the Rules.

    Rule 36. states: Voting By Ballot Voting by ballot shall be allowed as provided for by these Rules or on any matter the General Committee consider to be of sufficient importance.
    (The italics are mine, not the Rules’.)
    Rule 38. specifies that Rule 1. – which mandates male membership – can only be amended by such a ballot.

    So – in light of the current social and cultural climate, the current issue raised in the Club, and the debate shown on the website (which may or may not be representative of views amongst all members) – what is the Committee’s view on whether opening membership to ladies is an important enough issue to to warrant a ballot?

    Please note I am not asking what the Committee’s views are, either as individuals or as a group, on the matter.

    I am asking whether the Committee thinks the matter “to be of sufficient importance” to warrant a ballot – or if that is feared to be too divisive (a concern that I read into your letter) to warrant some form of canvassing opinion, so that the Comittee might learn if this matter is or is not of importance to Members.
    (For how can the Committee know what the Members think or feel without asking them?)

    I look forward to hearing the answers to these questions.

    In the meantime, as this is already a public debate on the website, I will add this note there.

    With thanks.

    Mike Davis

  13. For reasons that I don’t understand, it seems that the Committee is unable to take the lead on this matter and initiate a ballot of all members. I am therefore prepared to take the initiative and call for a ballot of all members on whether they wish women(providing they are fly fishers and subscribe to the ethos of the club)to be able to join the Club, since this seems the only alternative to allowing women guests to attend functions. I do not find the men only guest rule acceptable. If anyone wishes to support such a proposal (9 other members will be needed),could they please get in touch. My e-mail is aenlowes@talktalk.net


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