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There are some differences between clubs and private clubs with regard to binding laws, although a lot of them are common.
A House of Lords ruling in the case of Charter v Race Relations Board  decided that a club which not only in theory but also in practice operated a system of proposing and seconding new members, followed by consideration of the acceptability of applications by the club committee, was deemed to be a private members' club. If a club genuinely selects its members on personal grounds (rather than, for example, accepting anyone who will pay a fee) it is a private members' club.
The rules and practices of private members' clubs have over the years resulted in a huge number of complaints to the Equal Opportunities Commission. The main issue has been the different classes of membership that are open to one sex only. For example, full membership which is restricted to men and includes the right to set the rules of the club and gives full access to the club; and associate membership which is restricted to women and has reduced rights and limited access to the club. If a club is not a private members' club, then it must treat men and women equally.
Section 29 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) makes it unlawful for anyone concerned with the provision of goods, facilities and services to the public or a section of the public, to discriminate on the ground of sex by:
Private members' clubs have been found by the courts not to come within the scope of s.29 because they are providing their facilities and services to their own private members, not to the public. The SDA as interpreted to date allows such clubs to discriminate against members in the facilities they offer because the discrimination has occurred in a 'private' sphere.
When it comes to employment, private members' clubs are covered by the SDA and Equal Pay Act and cannot discriminate on the ground of sex.
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