College of Surgeons challenged over awarding of sports ground contract

A company managing a sports grounds for the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RGSI) is asking the Commercial Court to set aside the awarding of the management contract to a GAA club.

SGM Management Ltd is seeking orders suspending the awarding of the contract for the running of the 20-acre Dardistown Sports Grounds, beside Dublin Airport, to Na Fianna GAA Club. The application is brought under EU procurement regulations.

The case was admitted on consent to the High Court's fast track commercial list yesterday (Thursday) by Mr Justice David Barniville.

SGM director Robbie Collins, in an affidavit, says he began working as an employee of the RGSI in 1991 and later under a contract as Robbie Collins Incorporated Sportsground Management. At the request of the RGSI in 1999, it was incorporated as SGM Management.

Mr Collins said his company was involved in the supervision and maintenance of the grounds which were used by RGSI students for training and home games.

In 2016, he says, the RGSI moved the bulk of its sports activities to the Railway Union grounds in Sandymount with Dardistown continuing to be used by it when needed.

This however meant there was an increased emphasis on making Dardistown available to third parties. Mr Collins said he entered into an arrangement with Na Fianna whereby it would rent training hours in Dardistown for some of its teams.

He says this generated considerable income for the RGSI in 2018.

In February last year, he was told by the RGSI that Na Fianna was prepared to take over the management of Dardistown and the RGSI was favouring the proposal.

SGM then submitted a revised proposal for management in conjunction with Shelbourne College FC. However, the RGSI offered the contract to the Na Fianna although Mr Collins says the RGSI refused to clarify whether it had formally awarded the contract to it.

Last December, the RGSI said it will proceed with the Na Fianna arrangement and refused to give undertakings, requested by SGM, not to enter the new contract, he says.

As the RGSI secured university status last December, it is a "contracting authority" for the purpose of EU public procurement regulations, he says.

The RGSI contends it is excluded from operation of the scope of the procurement regulations.

Mr Collins says, in light of all this, he was left with no choice but to issue these proceedings given the RGSI's stated intention of awarding the contract without adherence to proper public procurement procedure.

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