Derry City chairman calls for £36 million Sub Regional Stadia fund increase
The scheme, which was to deliver the Phase Two redevelopment work at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium, was approved in 2015 but remains in limbo following the DUP’s collapse of the Stormont Executive.
The plans to release funds promised to upgrade football stadiums across the north have been shelved, with Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey claiming the financial package needs to be signed off by the Executive.
Derry City Football Club, as anchor tenants of the Council-owned Brandywell venue, hoped to see the roll out of plans which included the construction of two sides on the Mark Farren Stand to create a larger capacity.
The first phase of this work transformed the Brandywell, increased capacity and has resulted in a much-improved match day experience for fans and everyone who uses the council-owned facility. However, City chairman, Mr O’Doherty has urged politicians to release funding and implement the second phase as soon as possible.
“With regards to sub regional stadia fund, that’s been talked about for so many years now and this £36 million, if you look at the inflation of construction contract costs now over the last couple of years, the supply chain - building material in general costs maybe 20 or 25% more - so I think that would need to be increased,” said the local businessman.
“The first thing is they need to get the Executive up and running again which is a big step. It’s very disappointing for all the football teams in the north particularly.”
“There are some clubs who really have poor facilities. We have a fabulous facility but we have plans to have the Mark Farren Stand extended the way it was originally planned and promised five years ago and I think there’s outline planning done for that.
“I would love Derry and Strabane District Council to get some funding from that,” he continued. “Certainly the football club would be very supportive of that.
“ So hopefully we get some good news in the next six months, maybe when the Executive gets back up and running again.”
Derry City season ticket sales are at an all-time high as the club prepares for an exciting new season under manager Ruaidhri Higgins and Mr O’Doherty hopes the interest and sell-out attendances will reinforce the need for an increased capacity at the Lone Moor Road venue.
“The important thing is, if we fill the Brandywell this season, we can go to Derry City and Strabane Council and say, look we have 3,500 or 4,000 people going to these games and they’re sell-outs and then obviously we’re in Europe this year as well.
“If we do that then we have a real case for extending the Mark Farren stand.
“As it stands, I don’t understand it (the delay) because it’s been talked about for at least five years and nothing has happened in terms of these projects in the Irish League.
“Glentoran and another couple of clubs need major work done to their stadiums. So they (Executive) need to sit down with football clubs and get a plan and implement it instead of just talking about it when it comes to the elections,” Mr O’Doherty urged.
Those talks did materialise as a delegation from the Irish FA and the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) met with the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey on Thursday and she assured clubs the Sub Regional Stadia programme will 'proceed as planned'.
NIFL CEO Gerard Lawlor also said there is an "acknowledgement that an increase on the £36million is required and is being sought," news which will certainly be welcomed by Derry City chairman.