Elite clubs may have to open doors wider

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am


Members of the most elite private recreational clubs face the horror of horrors - having to share facilities including toiletries and changing-rooms with outsiders.

Under a government proposal, schools, welfare groups and sports associations can apply to use the facilities at the clubs for all-day training or contests at weekends and public holidays. Use is now restricted to three, three-hour sessions weekly on weekdays and non-public holidays.

National sports associations can also use the facilities for training and local competitions for a minimum of 10 hours a month, on top of the current 40 hours' monthly access.

'To make it easier for outside bodies to book sports facilities run by private sports clubs, we could allow outside bodies to approach the clubs directly, rather than having to go through a competent authority,' a document to be presented by the Home Affairs Bureau to a Legislative Council panel on Friday says.

'Some of the lease conditions may be considered obsolete, such as prohibitions against people from outside bodies using the toiletries provided in the changing-room of private clubs. We plan to remove such obsolete conditions from all [leases].'

The bureau said it hoped the revisions could help promote sport within the community.

The bureau review came after a South China Morning Post report exposed a little-known clause in the land leases governing most exclusive private clubs; it requires operators to open their doors to outside groups to use their facilities for recreational activities for a certain number of hours a week. But a lack of publicity by the government meant the policy was known to almost no one.

A survey by the Civic Party found that an overwhelming majority of 933 schools, welfare groups and sports associations polled were unaware they could apply to use the facilities at private clubs. Details of the survey will be released tomorrow.

As of March, 51 organisations were operating club facilities at a total of 73 premises. These include such elite clubs as the Hong Kong Golf Club, the Hong Kong Country Club, and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. The bureau also promises to step up publicity. 'We could require the operators of the premises to publish information about their facilities on their websites ... Relevant information will also be uploaded to the website of the Home Affairs Bureau.'

Operators are also required to provide a quarterly report on the use of their sports facilities by outside bodies.

'We would conduct random checks and act on complaints, and if we detect irregularities and consider that lease enforcement action is necessary, we would take follow-up action,' the document says.

However, Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan dismissed the proposed revisions as inadequate.

'The government is in effect shirking its responsibility by asking outside groups to contact the clubs directly,' she said.

The general manager of the Hong Kong Country Club, Matthew Taverner, said in a reply to the Post: 'As a [private recreational lease] holder, the club is currently in dialogue with the relevant government department in this regard.'

Liu Ah-chuen, chairman of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, said the government must promote their availability.

Sze Lai-shan, a social worker at grass-roots group the Society for Community Organisation, agreed. 'I think it is a good policy. But it would be better if the government can help us liaise with the clubs.'

Privileged few

Some of the most exclusive clubs enjoy free or cheap land

The number of premises granted leases for free or a nominal HK$1,000: 73