FEARS have been expressed that a state-of-the-art football centre of excellence in Glanmire will never be built because of controversies surrounding the Football Association of Ireland (FAl).
The Munster Centre of Excellence project plan includes seven pitches, a classroom, gymnasium, dressing rooms, physiotherapy and medical and team rooms, as well as a community area and was first announced by the FAI in December 2016.
It is planned for a 30-acre site at Brook Lodge in Glanmire and is being progressed by Cork County Council and FORAS — the trust which runs Cork City FC — in conjunction with the FAI. Work was due to begin in 2017 with a two-and-a-half year timeline for completion, however, detailed plans and planning approval were only published in January of this year.
The €10m facility had even been identified as a potential training camp for teams competing in the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, for which Ireland is hosting four matches. FAI funding for the project is in place but a significant amount of Government money is needed to get the project off the ground.
Glanmire-based Councillor Ger Keohane (IND) said he fears it will never be built due to issues surrounding the FAI’s financial health, with members of the association set to appear before an Oireachtas Committee to answer questions in April.
“Councillors rezoned the land at Brook Lodge. However, with all the controversy regarding the FAI, will this jeopardise the centre of excellence and will it be given Government funding?” said Mr Keohane.
“A decision needs to be made because we are about three-and-a-half years into this process. With all the houses being built in Glanmire, there is a strain on local clubs and the numbers they can facilitate. Riverstown soccer club is leasing a pitch on a flood plain. They have around 650 members and they are finding it hard to take on members because the club is outgrowing itself.
“If the FAI is not going to develop the site maybe Cork County Council should consider the lease and maybe use it as a multi-purpose area for local soccer and GAA clubs. Ladies football and camogie at Sarsfields GAA need pitch space. Glanmire Athletic Club also needs space. We could develop a model that accommodates all sports. It’s a massive space and we could be looking at another three or four years before anything is decided around funding,” he added.
Operating costs for the facility are estimated in the region of €250,000 per year. In a statement released to The Echo, FORAS said funding streams are still being pursued for the project but no definite timelines have been established for construction on the project.
“The FAI and Cork City FC with the support of Cork County Council are preparing the application form for the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF). The closing date for which is the 17th of April,” a spokesperson said.
“It is envisaged that the Munster Centre of Excellence will be co-funded by the FAI and the Government. As planning permission is already in place, construction could commence once the funding stream is established,” they added.
A County Hall spokesperson said: “Cork County Council has granted a ‘Sporting Lease’ to the FAI in respect of the lands in Glanmire. The funding and development of the lands are a matter for the FAI and Cork City.
The FAI was contacted by The Echo for comment but did not reply.