The Northern Ireland Sports Forum are disappointed that the private members’ bill to exempt Community Amateur Sports Clubs from rates payments did not get through the Assembly yesterday. We are disappointed that the opportunity was not provided to debate and engage with the bill at committee stage.
The NI Sports Forum worked closely with Daithí McKay MLA on this bill, including presenting to the Finance Committee on its merits in May 2014. We would like to thank Daithí for his hard work on the bill which received over 1,000 responses to the consultation which further underlined the widespread public support for the bill.
We were, heartened to see that the bill received widespread political support in the chamber and this is a foundation we should build on. The bill was also supported by a wide range of Governing Bodies including the Irish Football Association, Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby. There was recognition of the great work amateur clubs do in developing and nurturing young sporting talent and the positive impact they have on their local communities.
We welcome the announcement from Finance Minister Arlene Foster MLA that an alternative bill has already been drafted and she expects consultation will take place as soon as possible. We would urge the department and the committee to work together to get this issue resolved and NI Sports Forum look forward to the opportunity to engage in this process on behalf of the sport and physical and recreation sector.
It is important to note that a large number of Governing Bodies clubs do not have licensed premises and certainly do not operate as a business with any real surplus to speak of. Any fundraising that is undertaken, goes straight back into the development of the particular sport. With this in mind, the vast majority of our members simply do not have the capacity or inclination to compete with their local hospitality sector.