The organiser of the Foyle Cup has called on Tourism NI to reconsider a decision to slash its funding offer by 50% for this year’s tournament.
Michael Hutton was speaking after being offered a reduced £10,000 towards this year’s tournament.
The funding has been cut from £20,000 last year, despite this year’s Foyle Cup being the largest in its 24 year history.
A total of 310 teams will take part over six days from July 18 to 23. This is up significantly from the 278 teams who took part last year, and a world away from the first tournament, which involved eight teams in a one-day Cup back in 1992.
Mr Hutton said: “The tournament will go ahead but my point about funding is that they are tying our hands behind our backs because we cannot go to Europe and attract the top level European clubs because of the funding we are being offered.
“While we have a am coming from Finland and two from New York this year, it is very much an Ireland and Great Britain competition, whereas in the past it was European.
The funding being offered to other tournaments, it has been pointed out, is at a much greater level, including the Milk Cup, which has 48 teams, but which is offered £60,000 to £90,000 a year and is therefore able to bring in a lot more European clubs.
The money offered to the Foyle Cup meanwhile has fallen away from the £80,000 handed over from the NI Events Company, before responsibility was transferred to Tourism NI.
“Since they have taken over the funding it has been a downward spiral,” Mr Hutton said.
Foyle Cup also provides a much-needed tourism boost for local accommodation providers and the region at a traditionally quiet time around the tense marching season, and brings young Catholics and Protestants together as well as they families for what is a cross-community event, Mr Hutton said.
A spokesperson for Tourism Northern Ireland respinded: “We received 82 applications for events sponsorship from across Northern Ireland totalling over £2million.
“The total budget available to us was £900,000 therefore the majority of applicants received less than they applied for. Applications and awards to the scheme are based on 4 key requirements: Visitor and Participant Numbers; Finance; Northern Ireland Tourism; Promotion of Tourism NI and discovernorthernireland.com.”