Varadkar in plea to reduce €3.5m rates hike for stadiums
TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar is calling on one of his cabinet colleagues to change the law to reduce the €3.5m rates increase for Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium.
The proposed annual commercial rates bill for the Aviva Stadium has gone from €437,000 to €2.36m, while the bill for Croke Park has gone from €528,000 to €2.112m in the first review of rates for many years.
Although the rates are being decided by the Valuation Office – an independent body – Mr Varadkar is putting pressure on Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin to intervene.
Mr Howlin has responsibility for a new bill which will change how the Valuation Office works.
Mr Varadkar said he was very concerned about the proposed increase in commercial rates of more than 300pc for Croke Park and the Aviva.
"Such large increases in rates for the GAA and IRFU would have a significant impact on the sustainability of their finances, and their ability to fund sports programmes . . . around the country," he said.
Mr Varadkar has written to Mr Howlin asking him to make changes to the Valuation Amendment Bill, which is before the Seanad.
Although Mr Howlin has not yet responded, the position of his department so far is that there is no basis in current valuation law to give a concession on rates to Croke Park or the Aviva Stadium. It has warned that other commercial ratepayers would take action to get similar cuts – and would force the State to contribute more to the local authorities who depend on commercial rates.
And it has also said that the stadiums are providing conference facilities on days when there are no matches – and are in direct competition with other businesses who are paying rates.
Most sports clubs and facilities are usually exempt from rates – unless they have the facility to serve alcohol.
However, Mr Varadkar said he was not seeking a complete exemption for Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium.
"It is right that they should pay rates like everyone else but I am deeply concerned at the scale of the increase and that sporting bodies may have to cut into grassroots programmes to pay the increased rates bill," he said.
Fine Gael TDs Anthony Lawlor and John O'Mahony are also lobbying for a decrease in the proposed rates bill. Mr Lawlor pointed to the benefits that the two stadiums delivered for other rate-paying hotels and pubs in Dublin.
The Valuation Office is due to give its final bill to the GAA and the IRFU in December – with both sporting bodies having the right to appeal it.
Mr Howlin could not be contacted for comment.