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Families left in lurch over cancelled trip to Real Madrid stadium to get their money back

By Rebecca Black

Published 07/09/2016

Martin Cushnahan and his son James (12)
Martin Cushnahan and his son James (12)

Devastated parents who paid out thousands for a cancelled dream football trip to Madrid are set to be reimbursed.

Up to 40 parents and children from Northern Ireland had been due to go on a trip - which was to include a visit to Real Madrid - in August.

A powerpoint presentation given to the parents revealed that football coach Austin Speight had promised a visit to a Real Madrid training session and a tour of the club's Bernabeu Stadium as part of the visit.

However, the world-renowned club distanced itself from the incident, saying it was not aware of the trip.

The parents were left devastated when the trip was cancelled at the last minute by Mr Speight of the franchise Coerver Ulster.

He disappeared from his Dundalk home just days before the trip was due to set off, and a Garda manhunt was launched to find him. He was found five days later.

The PSNI launched an investigation into the matter following reports from parents who paid to go on the trip.

Now it can be revealed that Sportsmethod Ltd - the owner of Coerver Coaching in Europe - has offered to reimburse the parents.

One of the parents, Martin Cushnahan - who had paid £2,000 for the trip - thanked the Belfast Telegraph for ensuring that the families' voices were heard.

"This is fabulous news and we reckon the article you did for us last week has played an important role in this latest development," he said.

The email from Coerver offered a "resolution on a goodwill basis".

A spokesman for Sportsmethod Ltd said: "Sportsmethod Ltd has been fully aware of the disappointment and frustration experienced by the families. As has been pointed out, Sportsmethod Ltd is the owner of Coerver Coaching in Europe. Sportsmethod Ltd granted a franchise to Sportsmethod (NI) Ltd, a separate company operated by Austin Speight to provide Coerver Coaching in Northern Ireland.

"Given the circumstances we realise that any recovery of monies by the families from Sportsmethod (NI) Ltd will probably take some time. As a result, and as a goodwill gesture, Sportsmethod Ltd has offered to reimburse the families whose trip was cancelled and the families who paid deposits for a planned trip to Amsterdam in November.

"This should not in any way be seen as an admission of liability by Sportsmethod Ltd, but as a genuine move to help mitigate against any upset caused."

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