Conference aims to help clubs successfully move the goalposts

HUNDREDS of sports clubs around the country are unaware that they do not have to pay stamp duty if they buy new grounds.

That is one of the issues which will be discussed at the ‘Moving the Goalposts’ conference this weekend in Portlaoise. The conference will deal with the thorny issue of sports clubs moving to new facilities and is organised by William Fry Solicitors, Dublin, and Knight Frank.

Brian O’Callaghan of William Fry said most sports clubs do not know that since 2006 they don’t have to pay stamp duty on new land.

Recently on two different projects O’Callaghan has pointed out to the Revenue Commissioners that amateur clubs promoting sports qualify for exemption from stamp duty.

“There are hundreds of clubs which are unaware that they qualify for this exemption. They may be working out budgets at the moment to buy or move grounds - and factoring in an extra nine per cent for stamp duty that they don’t have to pay.”

Matters such as de-registering club bars for VAT purposes, and the tax implications of windfall payments for club members in the event of a lucrative sale of their club’s facilities will also be covered.

“We’re not advocating that all clubs should sell,” says O’Callaghan. “It’s not appropriate for every club to do so. We see it often as a battle between traditional and progressive elements within a club - a common situation in sports clubs.

“Given the challenging economic environment now, compared to a couple of years ago, some clubs may have missed the boat. But there are still clubs out there with well-located premises in prime areas, and the banks will still give out money to good projects.”

O’Callaghan stresses the particular challenges that clubs face compared to other large organisations.

“For a sports club, its facilities are its crown jewels. You can’t be in a position where those facilities are out of commission for even a day.

“The key to this is that it isn’t just about selling land. Any club, any solicitor can do that and get its cash; that’s fine if you’re cashing in your chips.

“But clubs want a situation where they can close the door on their existing facility on a Friday evening and be able to go to the new facility on Saturday morning to play ball. If they can’t do that, then the rival club or sports body will step in.

“It’s a question of getting to a situation where, if the builder gets into liquidation, or there’s a problem with construction, how is that club protected? That’s the crux.”

O’Callaghan cites the case of Nemo Rangers GAA club in Cork as the ideal for many clubs - across all sports - in Ireland.

“They were approached by a dealer who bought their existing site - and then went on and bought and developed a separate site for them.

“A lot of clubs might have some money in the bank from the bar or club lottery, but developing new facilities costs big bucks, and to do that properly you need a watertight contract in place.

“In most clubs, you have a group of volunteers who can’t give their time over completely to something like this, and they’re dealing with sophisticated developers and builders on multi-million euro projects.

“And that puts pressure on: if you’re a member of a club that’s been in a particular location for 100 years, you don’t want to be part of the development committee which made a mess of its move, ruining everything for the next generation.

“You only get one chance at this and you have to get it right. It isn’t straightforward. We’ll be covering that in the conference.”

O’Callaghan adds that the economic slowdown that doesn’t necessarily mean builders have given up on club grounds as development opportunities.

“Even in a downturn there are good opportunities. Developers may have their eyes on particular club grounds, and now those grounds may not be as costly as they were.

“There probably isn’t any land in the country that’s worth as much this year as it was last year, but in that respect clubs can behave like any first-time buyers, and they can obviously wait to move until there’s another upturn.”

For further details and registration information for the conference, log on to williamfry.ie.

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