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RSL Chief Slams RSL Clubs For Exploiting ANZAC Day

April 24, 2013


On the eve of ANZAC day, the president of the NSW branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia, Don Rowe, has accused RSL clubs of exploiting the Anzac legend.

Mr Rowe claimed the clubs were more interested in making money from poker machines and cheap alcohol than serving the interests of veterans.

He has called for RSL branches to split from the clubs which no longer serve their original purpose.

”We want nothing to do with the clubs and the poker machines and the drinking,” he said.

”Our business is a not-for-profit charity looking after the welfare of veterans and ensuring they are properly cared for.”

RSL clubs were originally set up by RSL branches in the 1950s to provide a social hub for World War II veterans.

However, since opening their doors to the public in the 1970s, they have evolved into large commercial enterprises, with some clubs generating millions of dollars a year in revenue from poker machines.

More than $50 million was generated from poker machines at Cabra-Vale Diggers Club in Canley Vale in south-western Sydney last year alone.

Machines at Merrylands RSL had a net clearance of more than $23 million in 2011.

Mr Rowe said veterans made up less than 5 per cent of RSL club members and did not benefit from the revenues generated by the 274 RSL clubs in NSW.

”The clubs aren’t serving our members,” he said.

”They are trading off the Anzac traditions and the Anzac legend which we look after.

”The clubs don’t contribute to us or the welfare of veterans, that’s for sure.”

Despite the gulf between the clubs and the branches, Mr Rowe felt it was unlikely clubs could be forced to drop the RSL name.

He called for people who wanted to support veterans to spend their money on poppies, not poker machines, this Anzac Day.

Clubs NSW chief executive Anthony Ball rejected claims of a rift between RSL clubs and their sub-branches, saying the clubs supported veterans. “RSL clubs have made and continue to make an enormous contribution to our veterans to the tune of millions of dollars each year,” he said.

Chief executive of Merrylands RSL and chairman of the RSL and Services Clubs Association Bryn Miller said he was ”staggered” by Mr Rowe’s comments and denied that clubs were exploiting the Anzac spirit.

”There are many examples of RSL clubs assisting and helping veterans,” he said.

He pointed out that Merrylands RSL would hold a dawn service on Thursday morning.

That’s nice.

What do you think, are RSL clubs exploiting the ANZAC tradition?



21 Comments leave one →
  1. el gordo permalink
    April 24, 2013 9:32 am

    ”We want nothing to do with the clubs and the poker machines and the drinking,” he said.

    Hear hear… poppies are good.

  2. April 24, 2013 9:34 am

    Alan Stokes at SMH..

    At last someone from the ”real RSL” has been brave enough to speak out against the pokies Ponzi rort that has turned most licensed clubs into money-hungry gambling and boozing palaces.

    For too long the authority which the ”real RSL” so rightly carries in Australian life has been compromised by tolerating – even abetting – the growth of problem gambling and drinking at clubs trading under its respected banner.

    These ”fake RSL” clubs care more about building an empire for their management than they do about returned service people; more about cheap grog and grub and pokies jackpots than they do about the families of problem gamblers; more about lobbying to protect their vested interest than they do about Anzac Day.

    Read more:

  3. Splatterbottom permalink
    April 24, 2013 9:37 am

    “What do you think, are RSL clubs exploiting the ANZAC tradition?”

    RSL Clubs are the ANZAC tradition. Sadly some old-timers aren’t keeping up with the evolution of the ANZAC tradition from Two-up to Pokies. RSL Clubs encourage the tradition of self-sacrifice. People gladly do their shirts and homes, and their families make huge sacrifices so that RSL Clubs can put on a dawn service and the odd moment of silence.

  4. gordo permalink
    April 24, 2013 10:50 am

    There are some seriously funny people on this blog.

  5. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 24, 2013 11:58 am

    I’ll be paying my respects to all those who served at sea by heading to the sea.

  6. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 24, 2013 12:01 pm

    el gordo, studies show that intelligent people have a sharp sense of humour.

    Dull people self select out of GT.

  7. gordo permalink
    April 24, 2013 12:15 pm

    If I don’t get my El back I might be forced to change my name to something more appropriate … along the lines of my new portfolio … VFT.

  8. Ricky (Tory Torcher) permalink
    April 24, 2013 5:43 pm

    ESL clubs that have changed their names should pay tax like any pub. Clubs Australia is no more than a lobby group for pokie manufactures.

  9. Ricky (Tory Torcher) permalink
    April 24, 2013 5:43 pm

    Shit PTxt RSL

  10. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 24, 2013 7:05 pm

    Seems fair.

    …but turn of the predictive text! Spelling standards apply.

  11. TB Queensland permalink
    April 24, 2013 7:08 pm

    +++ but turn of the predictive text!+++


  12. April 24, 2013 7:21 pm

    Welcome Ricky by the way… 🙂

  13. April 24, 2013 9:06 pm

    lt wouldn`t surprise me if the RSL`s aren`t paying much in the way of benefits to `actual` vettran`s and their family`s. The Leagues, Bowling, and other `Community` clubs have really been megaphoning their so-called community benefits for years, which are actually a very-very-tiny part of the profit. There is also some tax-loop-hole (from-memory) for them too.

  14. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 24, 2013 11:32 pm

    OK – off

  15. vft permalink
    April 25, 2013 7:27 am

    Some Islamist Turks are trying to reinvent history with 21st century zealotry…. it won’t wash.

    ”Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and … his superior officer both had a strong, purely military approach to the war, rather than any extremist or pious religious attitude to motivating the troops,” he says. ”Ataturk always called on his troops to fight for the motherland rather than fighting for Allah.”

    Read more:

  16. IPA address permalink
    April 25, 2013 3:16 pm

    Just been looking through my matenal grandfather’s war service records, as I sometimes do on Anzac Day. He was a WW1 veteran with the 59th Batallion that saw action on the Western Front in France and Belgium. He was wounded in action twice, the first time on the night of 24th/25th April, 1918 during the battle of Villers-Bretonneux; the second time on 29th September, 1918 during the battle of St Quentin Canal. He was hospitalised on both occasions and returned to Australia at the end of the war. He carried physical injuries for the rest of his life and had a visible piece of schrapnel lodged in his forehead. The worst injuries though were the mental ones. Returned soldiers with his symptoms today would be treated for PTSD. In those days he suffered in silence.

  17. IPA address permalink
    April 25, 2013 3:46 pm

    ‘The attack took place on the night of 24/25 April 1918. The original time for the operation to start had been 8 pm, but General Glasgow argued that it would still be light at this time, with terrible consequences for his men. Glasgow stubbornly insisted for the operation to start at 10.30 pm, eventually settling on 10 pm. The operation began, with German machine gun nests taking some toll on the Australians. A number of charges against machine gun posts helped the Australian advance; in particular, Lieutenant Clifford Sadlier was awarded the Victoria Cross after attacking with grenades. The two brigades swept around Villers Bretonneux, and the Germans retreated, for a while escaping the pocket through a railway cutting. The Australians eventually successfully captured the German positions and pushed the German line back, leaving the German troops in Villers-Bretonneux surrounded and cut off. The British units moving in the direct, and therefore expected, route to the town had suffered at the German defences. By the 25 of April, the town had been recaptured and handed back to the villagers.

    ‘The Battle was a great success for the Australian troops, who had recaptured the town from forces that vastly outnumbered them, and stalled a major effort by the Germans to yet once again threaten Amiens. The village, which had switched hands between both sides, remained in allied hands to the end of the war. The cost to Australia was some 2,500 men killed or wounded.

    ‘A British observer, Brigadier General George Grogan VC, described it as ‘perhaps the greatest individual feat of the war’ up to that time.’

  18. Ricky (Tory Torcher) permalink
    April 28, 2013 7:35 pm

    Yeah Predictive text is not your friend.

    I’m in hospital at the moment recovering from a heart op and I have spent the last week in the next bed next to a retired Colonel. Apart from being a fascinating man who has lived 100 lifetimes we discussed this very topic at length. His perspective was very clear and one we both agreed on. RSL clubs are in the hands of marketing companies who have turned them into a shadow of their former selves as they try to cater for a younger audience.

    My local RSL changed its name to “the pinnacle” When I asked why? They said it was to modernise and rebrand.

    So let me get this right you have a brand based upon tradition and loyalty and this is a good idea because someone with a marketing certificate from Tafe told you so?

    The mindset is one of advanced buffoonery from too much free beer.

    My dear friend Slim Degrey used to call them gods waiting rooms.

    RSL’s do not return the same value to local communities they once did in the rush for commercial viability. I am no wowser, but the fall out from hi impact machines to local communities far out strips any nominal donations to sub branches. It is time for RSL’s to get tax benefits based on their return to community.

    How do you know when a club has stopped caring anymore? First to go is the Snooker tables, its all down hill from there.

  19. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    April 28, 2013 7:51 pm

    Ricky, get that RSL culture and happy vibe from the comfort of your own home!!

    Slot machine noise!!

    (By the way, agree, RSLs are dull, sell poor food and are designed to take money out of the pockets of the people who cannot afford it)

  20. Ricky (Tory Torcher) permalink
    April 28, 2013 10:29 pm

    off topic but related,,,

  21. VANDERWOLF permalink
    June 3, 2013 2:40 pm


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