Public kept in dark on using private club facilities, Ombudsman says

Ombudsman says the government has failed to promote the use of sports facilities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 4:01am


The Ombudsman has criticised the government for failing to monitor public access to private club facilities.

Under private recreational leases that began in 1884, organisations are granted land free or a nominal rent to establish sports clubs, which should also be available for non-members.

Until last year there had been no formal application process to allow the public and eligible groups to use these facilities.

The Office of the Ombudsman found that no one had submitted an application during the past year.

As a result, the government knows little about the use of sports facilities in these clubs, which should be of public interest, Ombudsman Alan Lai Nin said.

"As the government failed to promote the use of facilities in the clubs, only those with links to the operators gain access to them … the application procedures are far from transparent and it is unknown to many people."

He urged officials to step up public awareness of the scheme.

Seventy-three such leases exist, including those of the Boys' and Girls' Club Association of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Football Club and the Hong Kong Country Club. About 55 leases expired in December and were extended until June.

The Home Affairs Bureau has been negotiating with the clubs since December on renewing the leases for a 15-year term.

Under the leases, the government ensures that clubs allow eligible groups to use their facilities. In principle, schools, social welfare organisations, national sports associations, and youth and uniformed groups can apply through various departments and bureaus.

No concrete application process existed until last year when public concern arose over private sports clubs becoming exclusive retreats for the wealthy.

The bureau said it would require clubs to open their premises to outsiders for at least 50 hours a month, up from seven, when the leases were renewed.

A bureau spokesman said it would conduct a comprehensive review of the lease policy after completion of the lease renewals.