A judge ordered a former chairman of Cheshire West County Pool Team to pay the organisation more than £1,000 to recover members’ subscriptions, the cost of professional balls and legal fees.
District judge Patrick Wheeler found in favour of the claimants despite the absence of defendant David Griffiths, from Donne Place in Blacon, whose daughter Amanda wrote asking for an adjournment because her father was ill.
The judge, presiding at Chester Civil Justice Centre, did not wish to be unsympathetic but refused the written request due to ‘insufficient information’ as required by an order made when the case was adjourned last time.
He heard that between 2011 and 2016 Mr Griffiths, a former England seniors player, was chairman of the team which plays home games at Rileys Sports Bar in Victoria Road, Chester.
Current chairman Christopher Harper told the court players paid £3 each to participate in matches. Mr Griffiths had collected these subscription fees instead of the treasurer who was absent during the first four or five fixtures.
It reached the point where the £522.60 cash, which also included some sponsorship money, needed to be banked.
Two meetings were held, recalled Mr Harper, who said the then chairman claimed he ‘didn’t have the money on him’. It was ‘in the house’ and he ‘couldn’t get in’ or it was in a safe and ‘he couldn’t get in’. At the third meeting he allegedly said he ‘didn’t owe anything’ and was in fact owed expenses for costs incurred.
In addition, the claimants asked for another £650, the value of 10 sets of professional pool balls, which they alleged the chairman had in his possession.
Judge Wheeler read an email to the court which provided Mr Griffiths’ version of events.
He disputed the whole claim saying two letters sent to him relating to the dispute did not include return names or addresses.
“I do not owe the amount of money they are claiming,” he wrote. And he had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the pool balls as he had left them in Rileys with county members. In any event, he argued the sets would be worth less than £10 each due to depreciation.
Mr Griffiths wished to counter claim for travel, fuel and telephone expenses still owed. And he alleged police were involved over personal attacks on himself, his house and vehicle.
Darren Flaherty, the players’ representative, claimed other locals sports clubs and a former Chester wine bar had been left out of pocket due to similar behaviour by Mr Griffiths in the past, which in one case totalled about £4,000.
“He’s constantly doing it,” said Mr Flaherty, who expressed frustration with the police. “We tried to go the criminal court route and for some reason, I can’t understand why, the police don’t see this as a criminal case.”
He said Mr Griffiths had 'issues with gambling and struggling with his money'.
District Judge Wheeler ordered Mr Griffths repay the £522.60 in subscriptions based on the accounts but would only award £360 of the £650 claimed for the professional pool balls due to lack of documentation. In addition, there were court fees of £185 meaning the defendant must pay a total of £1,067.60 within 14 days.
Speaking afterwards, the claimants were pleased with the outcome in terms of shaming Mr Griffiths, whose player nickname is the ‘Ice Man’, but not hopeful of getting their money back. The team may approach the police once again to see if they will reconsider taking criminal action.
B team captain Chris Welsh said: “On the whole I think we’re all happy with the result.”
The group, which includes a ladies’ team, held a 24-hour fund-raising fancy dress pool event at the Egerton Arms in Brook Street last November which raised more than £1,000 towards buying 10 new sets of pool balls so the teams could continue playing.