Private clubs say open-door policy will force change

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am


Private clubs which will have to throw open their doors to the public under proposed changes to their lease are seeking answers from the government as to how the move will affect their day-to-day operations.

One club asked how it could stop outsiders using its sauna and steam room, while another questioned why existing members should pay more in fees than others such as schools, welfare and sports groups, as the proposals suggest.

The government says its proposals are intended to make clubs running under private recreational leases, most of which only pay a nominal fee for the premises, contribute more to society.

They were raised at a Home Affairs Bureau briefing yesterday attended by senior executives of a number of elite clubs, including the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Hong Kong Football Club and Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club.

Hong Kong Football Club general manager Mark Pawley said he needed to see the lease to determine if the club could be completely compliant.

Stressing the latest developments 'seemed fine', he added that different stakeholders were still in discussions over the proposed changes.

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club general manager Ray Parry said proposed changes were 'entirely reasonable and hopefully ongoing'.

Craigengower Cricket Club manager Ludwig Lee Sheung-shun said concerns were raised.

'Saunas and steam rooms are not sports facilities. How can clubs avoid these facilities from being used by outsiders? One club asked this question,' Lee said.

He also questioned another suggestion that would increase the number of hours clubs should open their facilities to outsiders from as much as 36 hours a month to more than 40.

He said some clubs wanted to know to what extent a club should be occupied to prove it was being used. 'For example, how much of a lawn bowls green has to be opened at one time,' he said.

Lee said it would be embarrassing to let existing club members know others could pay a much cheaper rate to join. Under the government proposal, athletes should be allowed to use facilities of sports clubs at a significantly lower rate.

Lee added that existing members could veto such a proposal as amendments to his organisation's memorandum and articles had to be changed, requiring majority support from members in extraordinary general meetings.

A Home Affairs Bureau spokesman stressed that views of stakeholders had been taken into account before making the proposal.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by legislator Tanya Chan found that 90 per cent of schools, sports and welfare groups were unaware they could already use facilities at private clubs.

Some members of private clubs do not want non-members to have access. One member of Craigengower Cricket Club said she was worried the club, where her two children regularly went, would become less safe. But others took a different view.

'If they manage it well, I don't see a problem with allowing organisations to use the club grounds. I think it would be good to allow some time for youngsters to train,' Craigengower Cricket Club and Hong Kong Jockey Club member Stephen Chan said.