€10m Glanmire soccer centre in doubt after FAI funding is frozen over Delaney loan concerns

€10m Glanmire soccer centre in doubt after FAI funding is frozen over Delaney loan concerns
Former chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland John Delaney 

A €10m FAI project in Cork has been thrown into doubt and labelled “Glanmire’s event centre” after soccer’s governing body had its funding frozen by Sport Ireland.

Sport Ireland has confirmed it has suspended funding to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) amid concerns over a controversial loan by former chief executive John Delaney.

The funding has been pulled from the FAI just days before the deadline closes on a Government funding stream for the FAI’s Munster Centre of Excellence project, to be based in Glanmire.

The project is a joint venture between Foras — Friends of the Rebel Army Society, the trust which runs Cork City FC —and the FAI on land provided by Cork County Council.

Foras confirmed to The Echo last month that a significant amount of Government money is needed to get the €10m project off the ground, with most of the funds being pursued through the Government’s Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund. Applications for the fund close on April 17.

A computer generated image of the proposed FAI Centre of Excellence in Glanmire.
A computer generated image of the proposed FAI Centre of Excellence in Glanmire.

Fianna Fáil spokesman for sport, Kevin O’Keeffe, said he would be raising the issue at an Oireachtas Committee meeting today.

He said: “Sport Ireland have a say and an influence on the Minister for Sport Shane Ross’s decision on the FAI application and freezing funding to the organisation sends a very strong message.

“It would be an awful pity if the centre was stopped. It would affect the talent pool for soccer in the whole of Munster. It would be a shame on the youth of Cork and further afield.”

Chairperson of Foras, Declan Carey, said there was a lot of speculation regarding the financial freeze and what it would mean for the project, but added: “We will be supporting the FAI in their application. We presume they are still going to apply, we haven’t been told otherwise.”

Local county councillor Ger Keohane said he believes the centre of excellence project has “gone down the tube”.

Mr Keohane said the lease of the land should now be reviewed and given to local sports clubs whose growth has been stunted by the lack of facilities in the area.

“Cork County Council should review their lease agreement with the FAI,” he told The Echo.

“This will drag on for years. We need a multi-purpose sports facility in the area. With the way Glanmire is going, clubs are outgrowing themselves. Riverstown soccer club cannot even take on any new members. They are losing players to other clubs because they can’t manage the numbers.

“This is like the events centre all over again on a smaller scale,” he added.

The Munster Centre of Excellence plan includes seven pitches, a classroom, a 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 on a 30-acre site at Brooklodge.

Work was due to begin in 2017 with a two-and-a-half-year timeline for completion; however, detailed plans and planning approval were published only in January of this year.

Sport Ireland, which provides €2.7m a year for a number of programmes within the FAI, confirmed the decision to suspend funding in a statement yesterday, saying the FAI had not complied with its funding rules.

Last week, Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy told an Oireachtas committee that his organisation had no knowledge of a €100,000 “bridging loan” made to the FAI by former chief executive John Delaney or that the FAI was paying Mr Delaney’s rent.

Mr Delaney, who officially resigned from the FAI board following on from quitting as chief executive, confirmed last month that he gave the association the loan to help it through a short-term cashflow problem, which has since been repaid.

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