FOYLE CUP Chairman, Michael Hutton hailed the huge success of the six day festival of football, claiming the tournament has generated in excess of £2 million to the local economy this week.
The 2015 Hughes Insurance sponsored tournament, which concludes tomorrow with the traditional finals showpiece at Brandywell Stadium, featured a record 278 teams from around the world.
And Mr Hutton believes the tournament has now proven itself to be the biggest event in the Derry City calendar, just four months after a funding shortage threatened its survival.
Parents and supporters came out in force at venues across the North West to watch some 853 matches and in excess of 12,000 bed-nights had been reserved at the start of the week.
And while an economic spend of at least £1,600,000 in the North West area was estimated by N. Ireland Tourist Board prior to the big kick-off, Hutton believes that figure has been ‘grossly underestimated’.
“The Foyle Cup is the biggest event in Derry City’s calendar, not just the biggest sporting event,” claimed Mr Hutton. “There’s nothing to compare with it.
“The Jazz festival and Hallowe’en festival are great events but do they create bed nights for five and six nights? Do they bring 100 per cent occupancy to hotels in the city?
“We’re bringing people in from all over the world.
“The Tourist Board say it brings in £1.6 million but they’ve grossly underestimated that. I would say it’s in excess of £2 million the Foyle Cup is bringing into the local economy this week.
“The hotels are buzzing and it’s a full week residential stay. They’re staying in Strabane, Limavady and all over Donegal.
“We have 278 teams and 853 matches spread across the whole North West region over six days. Last year we had 220 teams, so it’s definitely the biggest by far.
“It’s a grassroots event with professional clubs involved. Our kids are getting the chance to play against teams like Celtic, Motherwell and Norwich - that’s a dream delivered to so many of them. It’s a wonderful story for the people of this city.”
Given the success, it seems unthinkable that the future of the tournament was in jeopardy due to lack of funding earlier this year with Hutton labelling this year’s event as a’ huge success story’.
More than 3,000 teenage footballers made their way through the city in the colourful opening parade last Tuesday morning and that was undoubtedly the highlight of the week for the tournament chairman.
It’s a grassroots event with professional clubs involved. Our kids are getting the chance to play against teams like Celtic, Motherwell and Norwich - that’s a dream delivered to so many of them. It’s a wonderful story for the people of this city.Michael Hutton
“That was the highlight for me,” continued Hutton. “It was a time of joyous, colourful celebrations.
“I was on a high. It was the greatest adrenaline rush I’ve ever experienced in my life.
“The picture of that parade should be broadcast throughout N. Ireland. It was a real spectacle.”
And Mr Hutton heaped praise on the efforts of the whole community for pulling together and making it such a success.
“Okay I might get the credit for organising it, and granted I work 52 weeks a year, but I’m just the vehicle to make it happen.
“They proudly take responsibility for staging the Foyle Cup in their own area. Take places like Ardmore, Kilea, Kildrum, Moville, Greencastle, Oakland Park in Creggan - all the locals are out manning the ground and welcoming the teams.
“We wouldn’t have the man-power to do all that but the communities welcome us into their area and take responsibility. There’s not a paid employee anywhere - it’s all voluntary,” he stressed.
“We also have got a lot of praise for the ladies football this week. There’s 24 teams playing ladies football this year. There isn’t much ladies football in the North West area, so we’re really promoting it this year and people have really enjoyed it. We had eight teams last year and there’s more work to be done.
“It was a massive task to carry off 853 matches in six days when you look at the Premier League plays 360 matches in a full season! It’s unreal but that happens because the communities make that happen.”