THE Lower Clarence Magpies Rugby League Football Club won the 2009 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League premiership without being an incorporated association.

In fact a statement from the NSW Department of Fair Trading reveals that the club last lodged an annual statement for the financial year ended September 30, 1995.

It also appears that the club has not appointed a public officer to lodge such statements since Robert Audley Clark filed in 1995.

This is not good news for the club and its members, as they are no longer protected from legal action of creditors seeking to recover their money.

Worse news is the club’s debt, according to club president Ben Campbell, is ‘a little more than half way between’ a figure of $62,000 mentioned by NRRRL secretary Doug Harrison yesterday and $150,000 by an anonymous Magpie supporter who attended the club’s recent public meeting.

Mr Campbell said he was not aware of the extent of the debt the club had run up, or that its incorporation had been cancelled.

Despite this, the club is determined that it will field teams in the 2010 competition if it can jump a legal hurdle at a meeting tonight between it, the NRRRL and Country Rugby League.

What this ‘legal hurdle’ is will be revealed at tonight’s meeting at the Maclean Bowling Club, as Mr Campbell refused to comment further on it.

The Magpies’ honorary solicitor, Mark Spagnolo, addressed the club at length on its legal position at the last public meeting.

He also declined to comment on the issue until he had taken further instructions from his client.

The NSW Department of Fair Trading provided the following answers to a series of questions emailed to it yesterday.

What are the ramifications for an organisation that continues to trade after its incorporation has been cancelled?

A: Once the incorporation of an association is cancelled, the legal entity ceases to exist and the benefits attached to incorporation, such as limited liability to its members, are no longer available. Cancellation of incorporation is likely to negate any contractual arrangements, etc., the association may have entered into, however, Fair Trading cannot provide legal advice on such matters and the members/committee should seek their own legal advice on this issue.

Who was the Magpies public officer and when was the last time he filed the Magpies’ annual report?

A: Robert Audley Clark was the last known public officer. The association last lodged an annual statement for the financial year ended September 30, 1995.

What do the Magpies have to do to become incorporated again?

A: An association can apply for reinstatement of incorporation, however, before any such action could proceed, the cancelled association is required to provide a submission setting out the reasons why reinstatement should be considered and submitting the following documentation in support of their request:

Annual statements for past seven years

Minutes of AGMs and committee meetings for past three years

Registers of members and committee members

Bank account details

Asset register\

Notification of change in details of public officer

Details of any grant funding

On receipt of this information, Fair Trading will consider whether reinstatement is appropriate.

What penalties could be imposed on the Magpies for their failure to lodge reports?

A: The Act does provide for imposition of a minor fine for failure to lodge annual statements of two penalty points ($220) where prosecution action is successful. In the case of recalcitrant associations such as this one, where grounds for cancellation are clearly met, cancellation action is the preferred option.

The Daily Examiner will on Thursday publish an account of tonight’s meeting if the publishing deadline permits.

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