Responsibility of Officers of Clubs, Societies or Other Organisations
The officers and the committee of a Club, Society or other organisation are collectively responsible for its financial solvency, for the administration of its affairs in accordance with its constitution and the regulations of the Rules Committee, and for the conduct of elections under the arrangements laid down in the Club’s constitution. The particular responsibilities of the officers of a Club, apart from those laid down in its constitution, are as follows:-
The Secretary is responsible for the discharge of the regulations , including the return of registration and re-registration forms and other information required by the Proctors and Assessor. Secretaries of sports clubs should supply this information to the Proctors through the Sports Department (The Director of Sport). Club Secretaries are advised to familiarise themselves with the legal requirements governing public meetings and entertainments. Secretaries are also advised to attach this section of the Regulations and Notes for Guidance to the Club’s minute book for reference.
The Senior Member can often play an important role in ensuring the smooth running and continuity of a Club. He or she must be a member of Congregation (eligible members of the University’s teaching, research or administrative staff). The Senior Member must be appointed to the club’s committee and should at all times be kept informed of the activities of the Club and its financial affairs. In the event of a dispute within a Club which cannot be settled amicably, the Senior Member should attempt to resolve the matter before recourse to the Proctors; further guidance can be obtained from the Clubs Officer. The Senior Member is also responsible for signing the Club’s accounts at the end of each term.
The Treasurer is responsible for ensuring that proper accounts are kept which are available for inspection at the request of the Senior Member or the Proctors. If the Club is disbanded, the treasurer must submit to the Senior Member and to the Proctors a full statement of the Club’s accounts. The Treasurer is to maintain an inventory of club/society property. A copy of this inventory is to be forwarded at the start of Michaelmas Term each year to the University’s Insurance Officer, Finance Division, 23-38 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford OX1 2ET. Any new items should be added to the inventory; the University Insurance Officer must be notified immediately to effect insurance cover. A pro-forma for the Club’s Equipment is available. The Treasurer should also notify the disposal of any item on the inventory.
It should be noted that the University does not accept liability for the activities of registered Clubs, including the repayment of debts incurred by Clubs.
If Club activities result in breaches of the University’s disciplinary regulations, the Proctors may hold Club officers or organisers responsible. A particular concern (on both safety and welfare grounds) has been about the control and distribution of alcoholic drinks, especially where these are free of charge or included in the entry price of an event such as a Club dinner. An offence may be committed where the organisers apply pressure to club members, where the advertising of an event encourages attendees to drink excessively, or where inadequate controls over distribution of alcoholic drinks are in place (see University Student Handbook, section 9.2). See also the information about Data Protection and use of IT below.
Plays and Entertainments
There are legal constraints and requirements for the organisation of public plays, dances. performances and other entertainments; Clubs should be fully aware of these before organising such events. Details are given in the current edition of Essential Information for Students.
Any necessary permission must be obtained from the copyright owner (or agent) before clubs show films, even if the audience is restricted to club members.
Advertisements and Fly-posting
It is contrary to City Council by-laws and university regulations for student organisations to advertise their events in public places (e.g. by putting up posters) without lawful authority.
Processions, Charity Events, etc
Clubs intending to organise processions, charity events, etc. are strongly advised to seek the advice of the Thames Valley Police before making arrangements as there are legal constraints on matters affecting public order (see Essential Information for Students).
Before a street collection can be held, a permit must be obtained from the City Council at the Town Hall.
Specific permission is required for collections held on college premises (from the Bursar) or University premises (from the Proctors).
If your Club wishes to organise any activities taking place overseas, whether during term-time or vacation, then details must be notified to the Proctors (for non-sports clubs) and the Sports Safety Officer (for sports clubs) at least one month before the proposed date of departure. This is to enable the University to check that any necessary safety or insurance issues have been addressed and that contact details will be available. The Proctors may specify conditions before approval is given. Students who want to be absent from Oxford during term-time need to obtain the permission of their colleges (in the case of sports tours, this applies also to absence on the Thursday and Friday of the week preceding Full Term).
Safeguarding children or adults at risk
If a Club’s activities regularly bring members into contact with children (under 18, and especially under 16) or with adults at risk (e.g. a person who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation) those activities should be risk assessed and processes for reporting safeguarding concerns identified. It may be necessary for Disclosure and Barring Service checks to be carried out on individual members and for information disclosed under this procedure to be acted upon. For further information and advice, please contact the OUSS Vetting and Screening Administration team.
You can find information about the University's arrangement for Safeguarding 'at risk' adults and children online.
Value Added Tax
For VAT purposes, student clubs and societies are considered as individual entities; they are not part of or covered by the University’s VAT registration. Each club or society is thus treated as a separate business.
What this means is that, provided a Club’s total income for all sources does not exceed the VAT registration threshold (£85,000 p.a. in 2019/2020), the Club does not need to register for VAT with H.M. Revenue & Customs. This in turn means that the Club does not need to charge or account for VAT, e.g. on its subscriptions to members, on sales of tickets for dinners/entertainments, sales of advertising space in term-cards, sales of tee-shirts and mementoes, etc.
However, suppliers to Clubs of goods and services will charge VAT according to the normal rules, and Clubs not registered for VAT will need to absorb this VAT as part of the costs of the goods/services purchased. Although student clubs and societies share the charitable status of the University, this does not mean that clubs and societies can thereby avoid VAT on their purchases and expenses, e.g. payments to caterers. There is no general exemption from VAT for charities.
Any Club not registered for VAT which has an annual turnover nearing or exceeding the VAT registration threshold can obtain advice about VAT from the Clubs Officer. The matter of registration for VAT should be dealt with in timely fashion; HM Revenue and Customs impose financial penalties for late registration.
It is generally accepted by HM Revenue and Customs, and the Charity Commissioners, that Clubs registered with the Proctors may operate under the aegis of the University’s charitable status; providing the funds raised by the clubs or society are modest in scale. Should any club or society contemplate raising large sums of money from outside sources, advice should be sought from the Clubs Officer. The Treasurer should discuss the Club’s status with the bank to establish whether gross interest can be credited to any interest-bearing accounts. The legal framework for charities is changing. The Proctors will notify Clubs of the implications in due course. The University’s Development Office may be able to provide advice about tax-efficient donations from Club sponsors: please contact the Clubs Officer for details.
Club property: Registered Clubs where Insurance Inventories are approved (see Notes of Guidance for the Treasurer ) can in general expect their physical property to be covered on the same terms as that of University property – but note that excess clauses apply, particularly for computing equipment.
Personal accident: Cover is not automatically provided under the University’s insurance policies. Any Club activities which may result in personal injury to Club members, or to the public, should be discussed in advance with the Clubs Officer (non-sports Clubs, publications) or the Director of Sport (Sports Clubs) so that proper advice can be taken about insurance cover.
Liability: The University’s Public Liability and Products Liability Insurance provides cover for all bona fide activities conducted by Clubs registered with the Proctors. The policy provides cover for compensation claims for injury or damage for which the Club is legally liable. Evidence of cover will be provided upon the submission of a risk assessment to be approved by OU Safety Office in respect of any club activity.
Like all insureds, the University has a ‘duty of disclosure’, i.e. a duty to provide full information to the insurer of any acts which might not ordinarily be anticipated from the description of the insured’s standard activities. Therefore, any Clubs contemplating holding an event which they believe to be usually hazardous, or not within the sphere of their usual activities, should provide written details to the Administrative Officer, Insurance Section, Finance Division, 23-38 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford OX1 2ET (tel. 01865 616012) who will also be pleased to provide general guidance on insurance-related enquiries. It will greatly assist all concerned, if thought could be given, and guidance sought, at the planning stage of any unusual event.
Motor vehicles hired under the Minibus Hire Scheme (see above) are covered by the University’s standard policy provided that the hire has been made for bona fide Club activities. This policy requires the hiring club to pay the first part of repair costs (‘excess’) in many cases.
Data Protection Act
Please note that the Data Protection Act 1998 contains important requirements about the way in which personal data (i.e. information about living people) must be handled and subjects’ rights to inspect and challenge the data. The previous Data Protection Act just covered electronically-held data: the current Act extends this to paper-held records as well (and has new restrictions on transferring data abroad). Each club and society registered with the Proctors is responsible for the handling of its own data. You will therefore need to think about the kinds of personal information held about the club’s members (and perhaps others who are on mailing-lists but who are not official members) and how this information is used. For example, if you photocopy your handwritten membership register and give out members’ name-and-address details to external sponsors, or even to other clubs when you are arranging joint events, you may be breaking the law.
The key features of the current Data Protection Act are:
- personal data must not be held without consent or unless absolutely necessary to fulfil a contract with the subject or to meet legal requirements, and then must be processed fairly and lawfully: so it is OK for you to keep members’ names on a written or electronic register and use this for the purposes of administering the club (collecting subscriptions, sending out termcards, organising elections, keeping a record of who is eligible to drive minibuses under the Minibus Hire Scheme, etc) provided individual members agree to this;
- personal data must be obtained for one or more lawful purposes and must not be further processed in any manner incompatible with the purpose(s); so it is not OK for you to use the membership register to generate mailing-lists for use by external parties (e.g. sponsors, other clubs) unless individual members specifically agree to this
- personal data must be adequate and not excessive for the purpose(s) for which they are processed; so if you are asking members to provide details of home addresses, their subject and year of study, etc you need to consider whether such data are necessary for the purposes of the club’s activities
- personal data must be accurate and where necessary kept up to date;
- personal data must not be kept for longer than necessary for the purpose(s) originally collected; so you need to be careful about retaining details of members who have left the University – the club might want them for its historical records, but must not use such information as the basis of mailshots (e.g. for fund- raising) unless the subjects consented to that when the data were originally collected
- personal data must be processed in accordance with subjects’ rights under the Act: these include the subject’s right to inspect the data held about him or her (but not data about other people); to prevent the processing of data; to correct, block or erase data; to sue for damage caused; you need to bear in mind that the club collectively, or individual officers, could be prosecuted for breaches of the Act.
- appropriate technical and organisational measures must be taken to prevent unauthorised/unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss, destruction, damage; so if the club is holding its data on computer, you need to be careful about who is able to access and process the data; even if your records are paper-based, they must be kept secure
- personal data must not be transferred, without the subject’s consent, outside the European Economic Area unless the country concerned ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects; this needs to be borne in mind by clubs with an international focus or whose officers may be taking club records out of the UK (e.g. on a lap-top computer) when returning home during the vacation
Full details of the legislation are available from the Information Commissioner’s website.
When people become club members, or renew their subscriptions, it is important to make clear to them what personal data will be held and what use the club wants to make of this. But please bear in mind that data-subjects can withdraw their consent for particular uses at any time; and the club will need to keep under review what personal data are held; where and how securely held; and what the data are being used for.
It is particularly important NOT to use a club’s electronic membership or mailing-list to circulate information from third parties (e.g. companies advertising trips abroad targeted at students) unless the officer controlling the mailing-list is absolutely sure that the information is directly relevant to recipients and that those in the list have expressed an interest in receiving that kind of information. Under no circumstances should the club’s membership register or mailing-list be given to third parties. Otherwise, the club will potentially be in breach of the Data Protection Act and, where unsolicited material is distributed over the University’s IT network, in breach of the IT User Regulations that prohibit ‘spamming’.
Also, the club should carefully control the procedures under which individual members may use its mailing-list to contact all other members. Messages must not be sent in a form which enables a recipient to ‘capture’ the whole list of addressees.