Sports clubs across the country which have a licensed bar on site would see their commercial rates reduced significantly under a new law being proposed by Fianna Fáil.
Deirdre Smith, Ratoath Fianna Fáil Local Election candidate worked closely with Offaly TD Barry Cowen, who published the bill, after being contacted by local sports clubs in trouble over excessive rates.
“This new law is a direct result of my representations on behalf of local clubs and as a sports advocate I am delighted to have worked with Fianna Fáil in proposing this change in the law which covers the valuation of property, because at the moment sports clubs around the country are being charged commercial rates on dressing rooms and sports halls as well as their bar,” said Smith.
Under the 'Valuation Bill 2014’ clubs will only be liable for commercial rates on the part of their property which is licensed to sell alcohol. Currently, sports clubs are charged rates based on the entire footprint of their building, creating huge local authority bills which many clubs find very difficult to pay.
“If approved, this will free up extra money for cash strapped clubs to invest in their facilities. There has been a major reduction in sporting grants in recent years and I think implementing this change in the law would be a shot in the arm a lot of clubs need,” said Smith.
“Commercial rates can be a huge burden for many clubs and I think now is the time to redefine how those rates are applied. People can understand why clubs would be expected to pay rates on a licensed premises but those rates should not be applied to dressing rooms or a sports hall, it should be limited to the bar itself.
“If the Government accepts this legislation it would allow sports clubs around the country to make an application to the Commissioner of Valuation seeking a ‘revision’ of their commercial rates paid to their local authority. This would be a huge boost for clubs and allow them to reinvest the money saved in facilities for their community,” said Smith.
This legislation would have a positive financial impact on future rates valuations for Ratoath GAA Club, Dunboyne GAA Club, Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA and Ashbourne Rugby Club.
The publication of the Bill was warmly welcomed by Chairman of Ratoath GAA Club, Donal O’Grady.
“As a club providing a local amenity to our community, we very much welcome this proposal and national debate on the issue. We are grateful to no end to Deirdre Smith for her diligence and helpfulness in bringing the proposed amendment to the fore not only for us but for our neighbours in Donaghmore/Ashbourne and Dunboyne also,” he said.
Ratoath GAA Club faces large annual rates bills and has had to consider closing its bar, like has been done in Trim GAA, to avoid the charges. According to Mr O’Grady, numerous meetings have been held with local and national representatives and officials from Meath County Council to try and find resolution to the problem. He is satisfied that something is now being done to raise the issue at a national level.
“This is one of the hidden costs to local sporting clubs that unfortunately takes needlessly from club membership and fund raising initiatives. I cannot see the members of Dáil Éireann voting against the bill as if they do they will be voting in favour of club meeting rooms, dressing rooms and indoor training facilities for children being rated commercial and billed as such.
“When you consider that sports facilities and pitches throughout Europe are provided by local authorities it is morally wrong that any amateur organisation who buy their own land and built their own pitches and clubhouse, providing a community service be rated commercially for any square inch outside of its club bar,” concluded Mr O’Grady.
The proposed legislation was also welcomed by Ashbourne Fianna Fail election candidate Sean Smith, who is a committee member of Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA Club.
“Clubs who have invested in larger community facilities pay a larger commercial rate, despite the size of the bar facility. This creates a huge burden on volunteers of the club to fundraise. There are fundraisers held locally for clubs such as Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA and Ashbourne Rugby Club for which the proceeds are completely consumed by the commercial rates bill. This in my opinion runs against the spirit of a voluntary sporting organisation which is a central sporting and social outlet in every community. I hope that this proposal will be taken seriously by members of Government and that changes will be made,” he said.