Plastic pitch may put Derry out of Euro U-21s bid despite MP’s pleas

Brandywell Stadium.
Brandywell Stadium.

Derry must form part of the prospective joint bid by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish Football Association (IFA) to host the 2023 UEFA Under-21 Championship, Foyle MP Elisha McCallion has insisted.

The Sinn Féin representative has said she will be writing to both associations to ensure Derry plays a part in the flagship tournament if it goes ahead.

In a joint announcement on Thursday the heads of the sister soccer associations were not exclusive about the grounds that would be used if the bid, which will be submitted next year, is successful.

All that has been confirmed sofar is that the final will take place in Windsor Park if the championships do come to Ireland.

Mrs. McCallion raised concerns, however, after the FAI and IFA had indicated matches could be played at Landsdowne Road, Windsor Park, Dalymount Park, the Ballymena Showgrounds, Tallaght and Turner’s Cross, but didn’t mention Derry. She has vowed to press for Derry’s inclusion.

Asked why the Brandywell was not explicitly mentioned at the official launch on Thursday the Chief Executive of the IFA Patrick Nelson suggested its recently laid new artificial pitch may have ruled it out.

“It’s not infrastructural work (required), it’s maybe what’s already’s happened there. They’ve put a 3G pitch in and you pretty much have to go one way or the other.

“It’s either natural grass or artificial and with the Brandywell having just put their pitch down that probably puts them on the other side of it,” he said.

Mrs. McCallion has said she wants to explore whether Derry can still be a part of the bid for the championships.

“While I welcome that a joint bid for the 2023 U21 European Championships will proceed, I am disappointed that the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium in Derry appears not to have been included in the bid,” she said.

The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium epitomises the spirit of all-Ireland football given of its location and the fact it hosts both Derry City FC and Institute FC.

She said she has learned, however, that the plastic pitch at the municipal sports stadium could be a major stumbling block.

“My office has ascertained from UEFA that it does not use artificial surfaces in its final tournaments. They are permissible in qualifying rounds.

“I will be meeting with FAI and IFA to explore any potential that may exist for Derry to be part of the bid.

“Derry has much to offer across the many facilities required for a competition of this scale.

“Sinn Féin councillors through DCSDC will also be exploring with the FAI/IFA to see how we can maximise any opportunity which exists.”