The sports complex ALSAA, which is contained within the campus of Dublin Airport, has been threatened with closure by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).
ALSAA, which is the home to many sports teams from Swords and North Dublin, was informed that they must vacate the complex by the end of this month.
The move would have see the closure of the sports centre and swimming pool which is relied upon by so many in Swords and across Dublin.
Why has this dispute happened?
The dispute between the DAA and ALSAA surrounds investment in new facilities. The DAA claim they want the sporting facilities upgraded while ALSAA say the terms of licence agreement they have with the DAA makes raising the necessary funds and grants difficult.
Following outcry from many ALSAA based clubs, the DAA have this week agreed to extend the licence agreement by 12 months.
Why can’t ALSAA just upgrade the facilities the way the DAA want?
The agreement between ALSAA and the DAA for the use of the land is not a long term arrangement. Despite the facilities being in place, for the most part, since the 1980’s since 2012 the DAA have moved to a 5-year licence agreement with ALSAA.
Many sports grants and funds are not available to clubs who do not either have ownership of the land they use or long term leases. ALSAA say that if a longer lease was agreed then funding for upgrades would be accessible to the association.
The DAA have said that at the end of this licence agreement they want ALSAA to compete against other providers for the running of the ‘on campus’ fitness facilities. They want ALSAA and commercial providers to submit plans to provide capital improvements to the facilties.
They want to ‘bring the sporting and leisure facilities up to an acceptable standard to meet the needs of all users on our campus including adults, children and Special Olympians who regularly use the facilities.’
ALSAA is a not-for-profit sporting association founded over 50 years ago by Aer Lingus workers.
What are both sides saying?
The DAA said:
Dublin Airport is currently requesting proposals of interest for its on-campus fitness facilities to ensure they are fit for purpose to meet the needs of over twenty thousand staff working at Dublin Airport and also the evolving needs of the surrounding community.
The current operator, ALSAA, has also been invited and encouraged to participate in this process of submitting a plan that will provide necessary capital improvements to the facilities whilst providing a sustainable proposition to its members and the community.
Regular users of the facilities are aware of the urgent need for upgrades to parts of the complex to bring the sporting and leisure facilities up to an acceptable standard to meet the needs of all users on our campus including adults, children and Special Olympians who regularly use the facilities.
As the most recent five-year licensing term ended in December 2021, daa has invited submissions from a range of parties, including the current tenant, ALSAA, to outline their operating and investment plans for the future. This standard process is neither sudden nor unexpected and has been the subject of considerable engagement with ALSAA since summer 2021.
daa is totally committed to ensuring investment in and continued use of its sporting and recreation facilities at Dublin Airport and it is disappointed at efforts to misrepresent the very positive objectives of this process which will benefit staff, and sporting and educational neighbours of Dublin Airport.
As owners of the complex, daa needs to take account of all stakeholders and cannot put the interests of a current tenant operator above those of existing and new users of its sporting and recreational facilities.
ALSAA CEO Jim McEvoy said:
ALSAA has been providing sports and social facilities and services to the communities of Dublin Airport and Fingal county, for more than fifty years, at both the ALSAA Sports Complex and ALSAA Swimming Pool. During that period, ALSAA has built a 70,000sq ft sports building, along with our 10-Pin Bowling Centre, our running track, astroturf hockey pitch, 10 rugby and soccer pitches, extensive tennis courts, our bowling green and other facilities.
While all of these assets and facilities, with the exception of the swimming pool, were built and paid for by ALSAA and its members, as part of a 50-year, multi generational investment programme, every one of our facilities and services have been made available to all of the communities within Dublin Airport, as well as to the wider communities within Co Fingal. We have had fantastic, cooperative and productive relationships with sports clubs, schools, special needs groups, colleges and community groups throughout the county for over half a century. All of this has been done within Alsaa’s ethos of being a not-for-profit organisation, driven simply by our twin aims of quality and value for money.
At this point in time, our focus is on ensuring that we may continue to provide the sports and social facilities and services that we have invested ourselves in since the 1950s, on a not-for-profit basis.
Level heads will be required to achieve this outcome. We are interested in having a mature and collaborative conversation with DAA. We believe the Board of Directors and Chief Executive of DAA can play a significant role in bringing about a result which will satisfy our mutual goal of the provision of top quality sports and social facilities.
I am aware that success in achieving our objectives will require diplomatic negotiations. While a tight timeframe has been mentioned, I believe dialogue aimed at achieving the optimal outcome may take some time. Achieving the best results must surely outweigh any proposed solution which is rushed or ill judged.
We did not sign the 2 month extension for May and June because our legal team advised us not to, because of its wording.
Indeed, even though the main parties to the current conversation are ALSAA and DAA, there are significant others who may have a strong voice and role in fostering the continuation of provision of our sports facilities and services, across all the communities we serve.
Fingal Co Council must be a very interested observer at this point, when bearing in mind the countless thousands of Fingal citizens who have benefited and had lifetimes of positive learning experiences at ALSAA. Similarly, as the minister with responsibility for Local Government and Heritage, and TD for Dublin Fingal, Darragh O’Brien is well aware of the role that ALSAA has played in the lives of his constituents, across the generations.
Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, is also a Fingal resident. There is no doubt that he will have a view as to the future of the largest and longest established multi-sports facility in our county.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar is himself a well-known sports participant and strong supporter of community sports facilities. With ALSAA’s sports facilities only a stone’s throw from his Dublin 15, Fingal base, he will be in a position to measure the feelings and reaction of his constituents and people across Fingal, when considering the current position.
We are looking forward to hearing from and speaking with all our public representatives at national level. Similarly, and equally importantly, we relish the opportunity for dialogue with the members of Fingal Co Council, who will have major concerns over the current state of affairs.
In summary, ALSAA, our management and staff are proud to have provided our facilities and services for nearly seventy years, to all of the people of Dublin Airport and Fingal. We look forward to continuing on our path, hopefully for another seventy years.
He also clarified two additional points:
The pool requires significant upgrading, and an appropriate lease will allow ALSAA to apply for sports and energy grants for it and the main complex . Similarly and appropriately, it will allow ALSAA to avail of bank funding if necessary.
ALSAA built and paid for the Main Complex, the Bowling Centre and the outdoor facilities. This happened prior to the existence of DAA.