Not a single penny of public money has been spent by the Stormont Executive on subsidising the upgrade of Brandywell Stadium in the past five years, it’s been revealed.
Sports Minister Paul Givan has released an itemised breakdown which details the exact amounts of money forked out to fund a number of stadia refurbs across the North since 2012.
Mr. Givan provided the information in answer to an Assembly question from Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann.
The People Before Profit Assemblyman asked for a breakdown of public money spent by the Executive in the last five years on subsidising the upgrade of Windsor Park, Kingspan Stadium (Ravenhill), Casement Park - all in Belfast - and Brandywell.
Mr. Givan revealed that, during this period, £28.2 million was allocated to Windsor Park, £15.7 million to Kingspan, £7.2 million to Casement Park and ZERO to Brandywell.
Mr. Givan said the Derry stadium may be eligible for capital funding under a sub-regional stadia programme to be launched later this year.
He added that Sport NI had provided Derry City & Strabane District Council - the owners of the Brandywell - with compliance advice for its early stage development plans for the stadium.
The Executive Office, he said, was providing Social Investment Funding to the Council for works to the Southend stand ands boundary walls and the development of a new pitch with £936,700 committed to the project in 2017-18 onwards.
Eamonn McCann - a lifelong supporter of Derry City FC - believes it’s time to consider “more direct action” in relation to the issue of upgrade funding for Brandywell.
He told the ‘Journal’: “Mr. Givan tells me that £936,700 has been earmarked for the Brandywell ‘in 2017/18 onwards’ - that’s less than two per cent of what’s been provided for the North’s other major city - and none of it actually paid over yet.
“I will keep pressing the Executive to redress this imbalance. But it may be that the time is imminent for considering more direct action in relation to this and other issues. Politeness is getting us nowhere.
“Fans of a certain age will recall that City were driven out of the Irish League back in 1972 after being forced by the IFA to play ‘home’ games at Coleraine. It took 13 years and a mighty effort led by Eddie Mahon and other ex-City players before we won our way back into senior football with the FAI.
“Derry and the Brandywell have had a harder fight to stay alive than any other club or ground in the country. We have earned the right to equal treatment.”
Meanwhile, Mr McCann says the NI Assembly should reimburse Derry City for any extra expense incurred as a result of delays in upgrading the Brandywell.
He said: “The drain on club resources from having to play ‘home’ games elsewhere next season will be salt in the wound for City supporters. Brandywell and the club - not to mention Derry itself - are being very badly treated here.
“Even more importantly, the illustrations so far published of what the Brandywell will look like after refurbishment are, to put it mildly, disappointing.
“The finished product may turn out to be a fine, modern, small-town stadium. But Derry isn’t a small town.”