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My Dail exchange on rates for sport clubs – 17th October 2013

Deputy John O’Mahony: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this issue which relates to the significant hike in rates levied on major sports stadia in Dublin and which will have major knock-on effects if replicated throughout the country in sports and voluntary organisations.  In the past few weeks the two major stadia in Dublin – the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park – have been given a rates bill that shows a fivefold increase on the figure for last year.  The bill for the Aviva Stadium has gone from €437,000 to €2.36 million, while the bill for Croke Park has gone from €528,000 to €2.112 million.  For the three sports involved – GAA, rugby and soccer – the increase will amount to €3.5 million which accounts for well over 50% of the funding the organisations received from the Irish Sports Council to deliver various coaching programmes for members.  The organisations provide massive business and economic benefits for our capital city and cities, towns and villages.  If this is happening in the case of national stadia, there will surely be implications for sports and community organisations throughout the country.  As a result of the economic position, the Government has had to reduce the investment in sport for a number of years.  All of these organisations have volunteers who provide not just an economic but also a social benefit for communities, involving the young and not so young.  They promote positive sports activities.  One might argue that these organisations can well afford to do this, but in the case of the GAA, for example, 86% of funding into Croke Park is disseminated through the units at grassroots level.  These stadia are of large economic benefit to the State via sports tourism and events such as the Rugby World Cup and it is hoped the likes of the European soccer championships could bring millions of euro into the country.  We are, therefore, shooting ourselves in the foot with these massive rates bills.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: How much time do I have?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): Strictly speaking, the Deputy has one minute, but I will be a little lenient.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: The Acting Chairman failed to let us know at the start how much time we had.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Peter Mathews): The clocks are there for everybody to see.  I am not supposed to interrupt Deputies.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: I reiterate the comments made by my colleague, Deputy John O’Mahony.  There will be almost €4 million less to be made available to clubs and communities throughout the country, with the money going to Dublin City Council instead because of the change in valuation of both premises.  There is a fear that there will be a revaluation not only of the two stadia we are discussing but also of all clubs and facilities throughout the country.  In my county of Kildare there are three race tracks and it seems that all of these facilities at the Curragh, Naas and Punchestown will see an increase in rates which will have a detrimental effect on them.  Will Dublin City Council give the extra €4 million to my local GAA or soccer club in Kill or rugby club in Naas?  I cannot see that happening.  We need to reconsider the Valuation Act 2001 and ensure we obtain a derogation not only for the two main stadia but also for all the stadia and sports organisations throughout the country.  They are creating an atmosphere for young people, in particular, to participate in sport and prevent obesity.  I appeal to the Minister to contact the Valuation Office and examine the legislation to see if there is a possibility of providing for a derogation for the rates paid by these stadia which also support clubs and organisations throughout the country.  We should also consider if we can extend that derogation to sports and community organisations that have a beneficial effect on the nation.

Deputy John O’Mahony: I will stick to the minute this time.  The Minister of State makes the points well.  Everybody understands there will be an increase in rates but the issue here is of a fivefold increase.  This comes under the various remits of the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform, Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Transport, Tourism and Sport.  Have any discussions taken place?  The danger is that the matter will fall between the remits of the various Ministers and nothing will be decided.

I refer to competition and distorting the market.  If Ireland is awarded the hosting of the rugby world cup there will not be a bed in a hotel or a guest house within 40 km of Dublin city.  That is not distorting competition or income but is helping the areas the Minister of State mentioned.  We need to get real about the benefits if we are choking them through the rates.  An increase is acceptable but not the one proposed.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: To reiterate, the knock-on effect of that measure hits clubs and communities all the way down because of the money generated by Croke Park and Aviva stadiums and how they transfer the money down the line to clubs, through grants and the coaching facilities made available.  That could be cut off if there is a fivefold increase in the rates bill.  I wonder what publicans and hoteliers would say if the GAA decided to move the All-Ireland final to Cork.  I would say every publican and hotelier in Dublin would be up in arms and knocking on the Minister of State’s doors if the event were moved.  It brings enormous benefits.  The community where I live and those where other Deputies live benefit, and so do publicans and hoteliers within the area where such events take place.  The worry is that there would be a knock-on effect for other facilities throughout the country if those concerned are allowed to get away with this measure.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: We all understand the concern, particularly in respect to those large sporting bodies and the value they bring to our country.  I must reiterate that the Commission on Valuation is an independent body, in accordance with the statute and it does not confer on the Minister any function in this regard.  I again make the point that before valuations are published the occupier can make representations to the commissioner.   There is only the proposed valuation at present.  After publication, the occupier can appeal against the valuation listed – that process is in place.

I appreciate the Deputies’ suggestion that the relevant Ministers should discuss the issue and I am sure there will be no difficulty in that regard.  As it stands, however, the legislation indicates that the valuation process is entirely independent of any Minister.  I will convey the concerns of the Deputies to the Minister, Deputy Howlin.