Institute hope to be back playing senior football in the Waterside within the next five years.
The club will launch its five year strategic plan tomorrow night in the Guildhall from 7pm and chairman, Bill Anderson admits the project will focus on every aspect of the club.
’Stute’s long term plan is expected to involve a return to its traditional Waterside location but at their preferred site of Clooney Park West in what could be a purpose built Waterside Sports Hub with junior football clubs, cricket and rugby teams all basing themselves there.
“Relocating ourselves and re-establishing ourselves back in the heart of the Waterside is crucial for the club,” he insisted.
“Historically that’s where we see our base, that’s where the majority of our followers come from, but at the same time the people of Brandywell and the Derry City supporters have been very welcoming to us and we want to maintain those links and encourage people to come and watch us in the Waterside.
“It is our hope to move into Clooney Park West but those discussions are on going. Clooney Park West was the preferred location after an independent report was carried out by consultants last year who identified there as the location and we have been discussing that possibility with the Council ever since.
“The other thing about Clooney Park West is that it isn’t going to be solely used by Institute Football Club. We have been looking at and talking to junior clubs in the area and we want to make that facility available for the whole of the Waterside community.
“The likes of Lincoln Courts, who have been playing there for years, it would be arrogant of us just to go in there and say ‘we are going to take over Clooney Park West, you will have to find somewhere else to play’ and that’s the sort of thing Institute have done with junior clubs in the past and that won’t happen again. That arrogance hasn’t helped our support or some young players coming to the club and a number of other things.”
Anderson confirmed that the club’s proposed new stadium, will be built in stages.
“What we really want to build is a stadium that we can develop, as we go along,” he added.
“So in other words you would build it to at least the minimum standard for Premiership football, with the potential for expansion and eventually you want to get it up, so that the ground has a minimum of 3,000 supporters because at that point you’ll be able to play European matches there and you’ll be able to get maybe some of the youth internationals and stuff like that.
“However that’s a long way off, as we won’t have enough money to do that at first. But it’s still exciting times for the club, we have a new manager in John Quigg and are putting foundations in place both on and off the pitch for the long term future of the club.”
The Waterside men are also planning for on the field matters as they have recently appointed former Derry City Youth Academy coach Eddie Seydak as their new Senior Academy Director and Gary Fowler as the Junior/Intermediate Academy Director.
Anderson, who was the club’s former Youth Academy chairman, knows how important it is for ’Stute to continue to produce their own players.
“On the youth side of things we want to be developing at both the senior academy and junior academy levels and in order to do that we have appointed Eddie Seydak as Senior Academy Director and Gary Fowler as Junior/Intermediate Academy Director and they are working for us and it has given the club and youth set-up a more professional feel,” he said.
“Over this last year, because historically we have been a club with not a lot of wealth, it has been hard to hold onto our better players. So we have been focused on bringing players through because that has been the lifeline for us. When players make it at Institute and the bigger and wealthier teams come in for them it’s hard for the young lads to resist. Now we don’t necessarily want to be a selling club, but that has been the case in the past but the five year plan will look to try and get that balance right.
“You never want to hold back young players, but at the same time you don’t want to be used as a development vehicle for other clubs.
“We were one game away from a European play-off spot and I think to be honest if you look back over the last couple of years, having won the U20’s Development League twice under Sean Friars and Ryan McCreadie, convinced us that there is an absolute wealth of talent of young players in the North West, who may not have been getting the opportunity locally to fulfill their potential and we as a club want them to do that.”
Anderson concedes that promotion to the Premiership refocused the club’s mindset of securing a new long term home.
“It is a big night for the club and it has taken us a wee while to put together a plan for us going forward for the next five years,” added the ’Stute chairman.
“We want to launch it in the way that gets the message out there and lets people know what we intend to do and how we intend to go forward. I think securing Premiership status was key to that in the 2018-19 season and that gave us extra impetus for making plans for the future.”