Ratoath GAA Club are one of the most costly clubs in Ireland for juvenile players.
With a membership registration fee of €150 for youth and adult players alike, Ratoath GAA's juvenile fees are significantly higher than neighbouring clubs in Meath and marginally higher than some of the biggest clubs in Dublin including Ballyboden St Enda's, Na Fianna Glasnevin, Kilmacud Crokes and St Jude's.
However, organisers contend that the club offers good value to local families, citing an extended playing season, a full complement of sport options and modern, well-kept facilities as some of the many member benefits.
The cost of juvenile membership at Donaghmore Ashbourne, St Peter's Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin and Curragha GAA clubs ranges from €30 to €60, with family membership at each of the four clubs costing between €100 and €150. Ratoath GAA's family membership rate is €300.
Each club's executive committee has the authority to set its own rates of membership. Clubs also have the autonomy to set discount membership rates for family membership, OAPs, students, etc. Club membership fees generally cover the cost of affiliation to the GAA, the cost of entering teams into competition and to help with the day-to-day running costs of the club.
Ratoath parent Alex McGrane says he was 'taken aback' with the high fees when he recently registered his nine-year-old daughter at the local GAA club.
"When she said wanted to join the GAA club, I was delighted. I was impressed with the mentors and their little sessions and mini games and my daughter was delighted with herself. When there was a game coming up against a neighbouring club, the girls were told that to play they had to be registered. So far so good.
"To my surprise, I was told it was €150 to register my daughter," he said. "I might be out of touch with the GAA, but I was quite taken aback. I always thought the success of the GAA was in its grassroots participation."
According to Ratoath GAA club, its decision to charge the higher adult rate for youth players was taken in an effort to effectively manage the club's debt.
"The club's membership fees are set democratically by the entire membership of the club," said Ratoath GAA secretary Paul McCann. "The current membership fees were set a number of years back as the primary vehicle to manage our financial responsibilities. We are meeting our financial responsibilities and are reducing the club's overall level of debt. The membership have acted responsibly and the strategy adopted has been successful."
Some of the benefits of club membership, according to McCann, include the option for children to participate in two sports, access to five playing pitches, access to the indoor training facility, a modern clubhouse and function room.
"We provide great facilities for children to grow and develop, to make lifelong friends. However, there is an ongoing cost associated with providing those facilities. We have a few more years to manage through before we can hopefully reduce membership fees in the future," he concluded.