Belfast Telegraph

Institute set for move as Derry unveil new stadium

By Allan Preston

As one Londonderry football club in the north west was showing off its newly refurbished stadium, another was preparing to quit its ravaged grounds.

Derry City FC has unveiled a multi-million redevelopment of Brandywell Stadium that includes a synthetic pitch, a new 955 seater stand and accommodation that takes spectator capacity up to around 3,700.

For neighbouring Institute FC, that must look like heaven.

After a "soul-destroying" flood devastated their grounds, a permanent move for the Drumahoe football side Institute FC now seems all but certain.

Last August, Riverside Stadium was deluged by 7ft of water in all the ground floor rooms and up to 5ft of sediment on parts of the playing surface.

An infestation of Japanese knotweed, known for causing serious damage to property, has only made matters worse.

While hopes are high that there could be some good news over funding for the club soon, Institute chairman Bill Anderson says tough choices need to be made.

"We still have some serious problems and we've been informed by the insurance company we won't get flood insurance moving forward," Mr Anderson said.

Institute is also engaged in a parallel process looking at a potential move to a new venue.

"There's a great deal of uncertainty, but it looks difficult for us to envisage going back to the Riverside Stadium," Mr Anderson said.

Hosting games at the revitalised Brandywell has also been considered in the short term.

"Discussions are ongoing, we need to be aware of the political sensitivities of using the Brandywell," he said.

"In principle the council, community groups and PSNI don't have any real issue with us playing at the Brandywell.

"The practicalities of it may well be a little more difficult."

Through all the heartbreak, he said he had been amazed by the fighting spirit of the team and fans.

"The club has been working very hard in the background, with lots of meetings and discussions. There's lots of goodwill out there to be honest and we are progressing things," he said.

The club has been working with the IFA and Uefa to see what financial support may be available.

A key frustration, however, is a sum of £36m for improving local football grounds that remains frozen at Stormont.

"No one can access it at the moment because of the Stormont collapse," he said. "For us it would be an absolute lifeline."

Belfast Telegraph

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