Axing of soccer funds ‘own goal’

The Thousands of footballers packed into Guildhall Square for the opening parade fo the Foyle CUp. (2107SL07) Photo: Stephen Latimer
The Thousands of footballers packed into Guildhall Square for the opening parade fo the Foyle CUp. (2107SL07) Photo: Stephen Latimer
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THE Northern Ireland Tourist Board has declined to detail how a soccer competition which attracts more than 140 international teams to Derry every summer has failed to meet new funding criteria.

For each of the past five years, the Foyle Cup has generated more than 13,000 bed nights from international visitors but organisers say it may not be able to continue without financial support.

The popular summer competition – which helped launch the careers of local players Darron Gibson (Manchester United) and Paddy McCourt (Celtic) – has this year been turned down for £40,000 worth of funding by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB).

The NITB said its criteria which aimed to increase “visitor spend and numbers”.

These were developed after “detailed consultation with the local tourist industry and benchmarking of other event funding programmes”, a spokesman said.

He added: “Successful applicants to this year’s programme were required to demonstrate how their events would meet specific requirements as set out in the application process. Following the comprehensive assessment process, the Foyle Cup promoters were not successful in their application for funding support.

“Subsequently, the application was subject to an independent appeals process and NITB’s decision not to award funding was upheld.”

He said Foyle Cup’s scores were “confidential” but had been shared with its organisers.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan has appealed to NITB chief executive Alan Clarke to reconsider the decision.

“This competition is a landmark event in the North West calendar,” he said. “in any circumstances, it should merit funding support. But it would be particularly frustrating to lose such backing in the context to building up to the City of Culture in 2013.”

This is a view shared by East Derry MP Gregory Campbell who wants NITB to review its funding criteria.

Mr Campbell said: “There are organisations and events such as the Foyle Cup and the Milk Cup which are not just outstanding but have a track record and have attracted many tens of thousand of visitors down through the years. If the criteria is such as to debar organisations such as the Milk Cup and the Foyle Cup, then we’ve got to look at the criteria.”