The Radlett Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, which is registered as a charity, is not being run for the public benefit and must form a plan to redress this within the next year, the Charity Commission has ruled.
The commission has published a report on its assessment of the charity alongside an announcement that it has agreed to give charitable status to the Hitchin Bridge Club, which teaches the card game bridge. It is the first time a bridge club has been granted charitable status.
The publication of the report, and the announcement about Hitchin Bridge Club, mark the launch of a new consultation by the commission on the advancement of sport as a charitable aim.
In its report about the Radlett Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, the commission says the charity does not provide sufficient opportunity for those who cannot afford its fees to benefit from its facilities. It says the club, which was granted charitable status in 2007, has three months in which to agree to address this, then a further nine months in which to submit to the commission a plan outlining how it will become more accessible.
The report shows that, when asked by the commission for evidence that it provided an opportunity to benefit for those who could not afford its fees, the charity said it offered the option of spreading the cost of membership over 12 months by paying by direct debit at a rate of £28.25 per month for an adult.
The charity also said it had made concessions to existing members that struggled to pay, and would offer reduced fees to new members if requested, although it did not advertise this and it would be done on an ad hoc basis.
A statement from the Charity Commission said: "Although the club is a charity, it is not currently being administered for the public benefit because it does not provide sufficient opportunity to benefit for those who cannot afford the charity’s annual membership fees."
Nobody from the Radlett Lawn Tennis and Squash Club was available for comment.
The club’s public benefit was assessed alongside that of three other sports charities: the Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, the Tintagel Memorial Playing Fields Association and Birmingham City FC Football in the Community. The commission ruled that these three provided sufficient public benefit to merit charitable status.
The regulator’s consultation, which opened yesterday and will close on 31 May, asks what might be needed to show that regularly playing games of mental skill or exertion promotes health. The Charities Act 2006 allowed charities to use the advancement of amateur sports or games as a charitable aim for the first time.