Fingal County Council made a decision in the summer to increase the rate charged to sports clubs for the use of council pitches in the Swords area. The Council defended the measure on the basis that they were simply bringing Fingal in line with the equivalent local authorities in the Dublin Region – South Dublin County Council and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.
Fingal County Council looks after 168 pitches and these pitches accommodate in excess of 900 teams. The cost of maintaining these pitches is in excess of €100,000 per season and this includes the dressing and drainage of the facilities. According to the Council, the total income earned for pitch usage for the season 2012/13 was approximately €34,000.
The fees breakdown as follows:
- The fee per season for an adult team is €600 plus an administration fee of €50.
- The fee per season for a juvenile team is €30 per team.
- A cap of €600 applies to clubs with 20 or more juvenile teams are applied.
- Also any club making a case pleading hardship will be given individual consideration and a flexible payment option will be put in place to assist any such clubs.
While the shortfall between income and expenditure is significant it is important to consider the wider benefits for the community living in Fingal. Local sports clubs provide an invaluable service to the community and the benefits of sport for young people are immeasurable.
Government policy has focused on the promotion of sports and leisure activities to tackle Ireland growing obesity problem. Local authorities need to support policies in communities however increasing costs to clubs at a time when many struggle to break even does nothing to promote sports in the community.
There should be no further increases in the rates being charged to clubs and I would propose that fees be frozen for at least three years. There needs to be a new approach to issues such as funding for sporting facilities simply increasing charges to make up the shortfall is a blunt instrument that simply puts more pressure on those volunteers that run our clubs.