Wednesday, 31 May 2006
Question 14: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he requested the chairman and board of a football club (details supplied) to halt work on their proposed move to Swords to talk to another club regarding the possibility of a ground share, as reported in a newspaper on 5 May 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21013/06]
Plans relating to any proposed relocation of Eircom league football grounds is entirely a matter for individual clubs to decide in consultation with the Eircom league board of control. I made no request to the club concerned to halt work on any proposed move. I have, however, requested the FAI to discuss the concept of ground sharing with a number of Dublin clubs.
The recent Genesis report on the Eircom league made a number of recommendations across areas such as revised structures, marketing, community involvement and financial viability as part of a radical reform required by the league to secure its future. It also signalled the need for Dublin clubs to consider ground sharing as a means of securing the significant public investment required to provide modern city stadia necessary to attract higher attendances. This acknowledges the particular difficulty facing clubs located in Dublin seeking to expand or develop in locations where costs are prohibitive. The improvement of facilities to ensure high standard, safe, family friendly stadia conforming with club licensing requirements was identified as a key requirement of the report.
I am fully supportive of the FAI's drive to develop the Eircom league, bringing higher standards, improved facilities and increased audiences impacting on the wider development of football in Ireland. My announcement last July of the allocation of €5.275 million in grants involving 16 Eircom league clubs underlines my commitment to the development of facilities for the Eircom league within the context of club licensing requirements and my support for a sensible and planned approach to this area.
The concept of ground sharing among top flight football clubs is not a new one with many examples of top flight football teams in European cities. It is certainly worth careful consideration in Dublin. I have previously expressed my support for the concept which could lead to the existence of two modestly sized high quality modern soccer stadia in Dublin which might serve the needs of the main Dublin clubs. It is in this context that the issue of ground sharing among Dublin clubs has been discussed among other issues at meetings between me, my officials and the FAI.
I have previously indicated my commitment to the completion of the new soccer stadium in Tallaght and I would support a similar development on Dublin's north side in an existing or new location. Against that background, the FAI had engaged in discussions with the main Dublin clubs to identify the options and the main issues for the clubs concerned. Clearly the recent decision arrived at by the members of a prominent Dublin football club to sell its stadium underlines the autonomy that the clubs enjoy and that, ultimately, it is for the clubs and their members to decide on their future.
The idea behind ground sharing by clubs is something I believe in. Given the overall costs of maintaining a stadium and so on, that is logical.
I presume that when the Minister speaks of Tallaght, he also speaks of a club-sharing facility there. With regard to the newspaper reports on the two clubs and a decision on a new venue, if agreement cannot be reached, will that affect either of the clubs seeking lottery capital grants towards their facilities? Is it a question of a new stadium or the refurbishment of the existing stadium that would see the Minister looking at a capital investment? The best outcome would be complete new grounds and so on for the two north Dublin clubs, and the use of Tallaght. If the proposal does not proceed, will that affect application for the capital funding by the other club?
It will. The Genesis report is clear on ground sharing and I have expressed my support for that report on a number of occasions. I have had discussions with the FAI which also believes it is necessary for us to have two medium-sized stadiums in Dublin so that the Eircom league can prosper. This makes perfect sense. For example, the facilities of the San Siro stadium, which has a capacity of 85,000, are shared by AC Milan and Inter Milan. Other examples are Lazio and Roma, and Juventus and Torino, while in Germany an example is the Bayern München and Gladbach football clubs. These are major clubs. We are asking that the four Eircom league clubs look at the situation sensibly. I anticipate ground sharing as the way forward. There is a need for two stadiums of a capacity of approximately 10,000 each and this would advance the cause of the league in Ireland.
I agree with the Minister that ground sharing is important. Does he agree that ground sharing between different sporting organisations is equally important? Surely the Gaelic Athletic Association has some justification in looking for ground sharing in Tallaght. What is the Minister's view? Is he requesting that in any new arrangement where he will make a major investment of State funds there will be a facility or accommodation for the local GAA club in this new ground in Tallaght?
In short, I am not because to do so would require us to have a lower capacity ground than will be in existence. This would be required if the pitch were to measure up to the measurements required for a standard size GAA pitch. In addition, a commitment was given that this particular stadium would be a home for Shamrock Rovers. I consciously made that commitment and it is one I will keep. It is not the case that other sports are completely excluded from the Tallaght stadium. I have no difficulty with other sports taking place there, but no provision can be made for the GAA there because it would require extending the pitch considerably and lowering the capacity of the stadium. All this would require further expense.
The Dublin GAA county board will be aware of land at Rathcoole. I have indicated in the past that I would be prepared to consider favourably applications for funding for the development of the facility there.