FAI resignations: €10m Glanmire centre of excellence funding hangs in the balance

FAI resignations: €10m Glanmire centre of excellence funding hangs in the balance
Looking towards the site for the FAI Centre of Excellence, Brooklodge, Co. Cork. Picture Denis Minihane.

GOVERNMENT funding for the €10m Glanmire soccer Centre of Excellence hangs in the balance due to controversies surrounding the sporting body’s finances amid board resignations.

The association's executive vice-president John Delaney has voluntarily stepped aside from his role, while honorary secretary Michael Cody and honorary treasurer Eddie Murray resigned from the board with immediate effect on Monday night.

Eight board members of the FAI board remain in place.

The FAI has confirmed that a funding application, in conjunction with Cork City FC and the Friends of the Rebel Army Trust (FORAS), for the long-planned Glanmire Centre of Excellence was lodged last week despite the current controversy surrounding the association’s finances.

The planned €10m soccer centre is dependent on approximately €5m of Government funding in order to go to construction, which is being pursued through the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund - a fund administered by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The application deadline is this week.

However, Sports Minister Shane Ross has ruled out giving the FAI any Government funds until all issues around the FAI’s corporate governance and finances have been addressed.

Former Foras chair, TD Jonathan O’Brien, has described the situation as a “shambles”.

“It’s an indictment on the FAI,” he told the Echo.

“They claim to be all about supporting grassroots football and local infrastructure projects yet here we have one of the largest in the area, in association with Cork City FC, that is going to benefit right football across Munster, being put under threat by the total shambles that is the head of the FAI.

“It’s really unfortunate but, if anything, it really highlights how dysfunctional the FAI is. They are doing more damage to grassroots football and the promotion of the game than they are good.

“It was a flagship project, a centre of excellence, there to promote football from the ground up and was going to benefit hundreds of amateur players, as well as professional players, with Cork city,” 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 on a 30-acre site at Brooklodge owned by Cork County Council.

When asked if the project could go ahead if the entire FAI board stood down Mr O’Brien said:” Absolutely [it could go ahead]. It’s a top class project. It shouldn't come as surprise to people that the Government is not going to be handing over €5m to an organisation that can’t even account for €100,000,” he added.

Glanmire-based councillor Ger Keohane has called for Cork County Council to terminate the lease at Brooklodge with the FAI and develop the site as a multi-purpose sports facility.

Riverstown Football Club chairperson John O’Connor said his club cannot to grow while there is a lack of soccer facilities available to local clubs in the area.

“We are one of Cork’s fastest growing clubs and communities and 10 years we would have had one team at every age group. Now we have four or five. We don’t have a home ground or a clubhouse. We have the ability to fun it. We’ve always been very supportive of the development of the facility as long as it delivers benefits to the local community of Glanmire.

“As no funding has been granted and there are no conditions on the funding, we don’t know what the benefits would be,” he added.

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