Monday, 7 March 2011

Drop the ill-conceived sports' section of the Justice Bill.

The Assembly is set to consider the Justice Bill again today, once Edwin Poots is done thrilling members with the latest instalment on High Hedges.  Previously, when David Ford’s draft went before the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure, it became apparent that Part 4 of the Bill, which covers sport, is unfit for purpose.

I previously pointed out that David McNarry, while he couched it in typically inflated, sectarian terms, had a valid point when he argued that football should not be the sole focus of sections on ticket touts and banning orders.

GAA, football and rugby clubs around the country have also been alarmed by the sections on alcohol at sporting events.  It’s been pointed out that the legislation would not simply cover the pesky aggressive louts whom the authorities want to stop drinking - it would also put an end to ANY corporate hospitality at sports venues and punch a massive hole in many clubs’ business models.

Ulster Rugby has been particularly vocal, voicing its concern that rugby at Ravenhill will be unsustainable without bar receipts and entertaining.  The Ulster Branch recently invested heavily in a new grandstand to house corporate guests.

The response from the IFA and football clubs generally has been, predictably, less organised and coherent.  Though the SDLP's Declan O’Loan did raise the issue of very well run “corporate dinners” which one Irish League club uses successfully to supplement its income.  It’s difficult to see what earthly purpose could be served by preventing such an event from taking place.

A hastily drafted clause intended to prevent sectarian or political chanting has already been dropped.  It seems that the entire sports section of the Bill was lifted straight from old GB legislation, with little or no thought to the consequences.

Perhaps its time for the Justice Minister to drop Part 4 of his bill in its entirety.  The UUP's East Antrim candidate, Rodney McCune, pointed out below the previous thread that the test for any legislation is necessity.  He's justified in claiming that David Ford has failed to satisfy that test.

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