Leon Mills thinks management should walk the plank for their attempt to expel him

Mr Mills holds up his now invalid membership card outside the club

Staff at the Riverside Club were shocked this Friday by the sight of a pirate walking into reception. Far from being a seagoing brigand this was Riverside member Leon Mills who the management are attempting to expel. He presented himself at the club with headscarf and eye-patch to press his claim that his membership remains valid as the proper procedure for his expulsion was not followed. Mr Mills has been a member of the club since 1992.

The management have accused him of being behind www.Riversideforum.com which has featured fierce criticism of the management of the club. They base the accusation on the fact that Mr Mill's company registered the domain. Mr Mills, a multimedia producer, says that his company registers around 50 domains per week on behalf of clients and as such the registration is not proof of any direct responsibility for the content at Riversideforum.

Esporta lawyers tried to have Riversideforum.com shut down by threatening Intensive Networks, an Internet Connection provider, with similar action. Intensive refused stating that in their view nothing illegal was taking place.

"Sorry sir but it's actually a PILATES class"

Mr Mills said, "They have accused me of defaming them and their staff and yet provide no details of the alleged defamation."

He has responded to the letter from the company's solicitor informing of his expulsion with a request for specifics and proof of the accusations made against him. He is disputing that his expulsion is valid claiming that the club rules as formulated in 1987 allow him to have a hearing in front of the Committee of the club.

The rule book states: "Before a member is expelled his conduct shall be enquired into by the committee and he shall be given such opportunity to defend himself and to justify or explain his conduct as the Committee shall in its absolute discretion think appropriate." It goes on to say that if the committee decides that a member is guilty of unacceptable conduct that member should be invited to resign and if he does not resign he should be expelled.

One of the Riverside's managers flees the pirate raid

By summarily expelling Mr Mills they are forcing him to forfeit the £1850 value of the debenture and the £125 he has pre-paid for August's fees. The debentures have been a source of discontent amongst many long-standing members who claim that the Esporta Group has devalued membership by offers to encourage new joiners. The group has had to make a £4 million provision to buy back debentures from members wishing to sell them as the introduction of non-debenture memberships undermined the secondary market.

The Esporta Group was recently taken over by a hostile bid from Duke Street Capital. It remains unclear whether the action against Mr Mills has been prompted by the incumbent management or the new owners.

August 2, 2002

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