Cash bombshell could sound Milk Cup's final whistle
The organisers of Northern Ireland’s two major international youth football tournaments have warned that the withdrawal of funding could threaten the future of the events.
The chairman of the Foyle Cup believes the competition’s very existence is under threat after the Northern Ireland Tourist Board turned down an application for £40,000 grant aid.
The rejection came just days after NITB also turned down a request from the Milk Cup for the same amount.
Politicians from Londonderry and Coleraine have demanded a rethink over the decisions.
The Tourist Board, however, has defended its stance, claiming neither tournament reaches the criteria needed for public funding as tourist events.
Foyle Cup chairman Michael Hutton said: “We were hoping to bring over certain teams from Europe. Without this funding we will not be able to do that and the quality of the tournament will be affected. If we do not get central government support, I do not see us continuing.”
Around 130 young teams and thousands of supporters will pour into Derry in mid-July this year for the six-day tournament, which costs £130,000 to stage.
Thousands more from across the world will arrive in the last week of July in Coleraine and surrounding towns for the Milk Cup.
Jim Sandford from the Milk Cup said that it was “a very bad reflection on the Tourist Board if they can’t see fit to fund such events”.
He said: “Part of the problem is the Tourist Board don’t tell you until a very late stage and to lose £40,000 when there was never any reason to suggest you weren’t going to get it is a blow. It is a very major chunk out of the funding, especially as we are not there to make a profit. It’s a disgrace.”
A spokesman for NITB said: “Our robust application process will only support events that are proven to support the tourism industry.”
“Unfortunately the Foyle Cup and Milk Cup did not achieve passable scores for public funding as tourist events. This decision was upheld following appeal.
“Ten key criteria including visitor numbers, economic impact and capacity for growth were assessed.”
He added that the new funding programme has paid out around £1 million to support local events.
- It was founded by Jim Weir, Victor Leonard and Bertie Peacock, one of the most famous football players from the region and takes place in Coleraine and neighbouring towns.
- The international competition has attracted high-calibre teams from dozens of countries over the years with players, families and supporters coming from as far away as New Zealand, Qatar, the USA, Scandanavia, Israel, Brazil and South Africa this year alone.
- Every year the Milk Cup includes six representative teams from each county of Northern Ireland, allowing young players from here to compete against some of the best in the world at their age group.
- Famous footballers who have taken part in the Milk Cup in their youth include David Beckham and Wayne Rooney.
- Organised by the Derry & District Youth Football Association, the competition has expanded from a one-day event and just eight teams taking part to a six day event with up to 140 teams from across the world taking part.
- The majority of teams come from across Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales with others this year from as far afield as Canada and the US.
- This year the 19th annual competition will take place from July 19 to 23.