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Coleraine cash war brews after disagreement on UEFA payments

By Steven Beacom in the Sunday Life

A war of words over financial matters has erupted between Coleraine FC and the Friends of Coleraine, who own the club, and the Harry Gregg Foundation.

The Chairman of the Friends of Coleraine has spoken about his fears that the Bannsiders could end up in the perilous situation that almost saw them go out of business in 2005.

The Harry Gregg Foundation, effectively the youth Academy at the Showgrounds, have revealed they are reviewing their relationship with Coleraine FC claiming that funding from the club via UEFA solidarity fund applications and player development reimbursement payments should have been placed into a bank account for youth development. They say that has not been the case.

  • Read the full statements from Andy Alcorn (Chairman of Harry Gregg Foundation), Derek Simpson (Chairman of Friends of Coleraine) and Colin McKendry (Chairman of Coleraine FC) here: Statements in full: Coleraine cash war brewing 

On the other side of the fence, Coleraine FC chairman Colin McKendry insists that financially the club has never been in a better position and that they have done nothing wrong in relation to youth development funding adding that a memorandum of understanding was set up between the club and the Harry Gregg Foundation outlining the responsibilities of both parties.

The fall-out comes ahead of a new season with Oran Kearney’s side aiming to build on last term’s achievements when they won the Irish Cup, qualified for the Europa League and lost out to Crusaders on the final day of an exhilarating title race.

 Coleraine are viewed as a success story in terms of bringing young players through, with a number of Kearney’s current squad emerging from the ranks, while gifted kids Sam McClelland (Chelsea), Luke McKendry, son of chairman Colin (Swansea) and Ben Wilson (Brighton) have recently moved across the water graduating from the club’s Academy.

There was also a sense of pride at Coleraine last year when respected ex-Institute boss John Gregg, son of the legendary Harry, was appointed Head of Youth Development at the club.

All it seems, however, is not well behind the scenes.

The Harry Gregg Foundation have issues surrounding funds that they feel should have been set aside for youth development.

Andy Alcorn, chairman of the  Harry Gregg Foundation, says: “There were commitments made over the past number of years to place funding received via UEFA solidarity fund applications and player development reimbursement payments into a development bank account, managed as part of a development partnership between the Harry Gregg Foundation and Coleraine Football Club.

“To date, other than monthly payments to cover the cost of the newly appointed Head of Youth Development Officer’s wages,  no money has been placed into the account.

“The solidarity payments which were generated over a number of years and payments received to compensate development costs were intended to do just that as stated in section four of the UEFA Solidarity Scheme for Youth Development contained within the UEFA licensing criteria — a licence criteria to which the Academy fulfils many of the requirements on behalf of the club.”

Alcorn added that there was a perception in the Harry Gregg Foundation that the club was ‘living beyond its means’.

Derek Simpson, Chairman of the Friends of Coleraine, the fans group that rescued the club in 2005, has backed the Harry Gregg Foundation in relation to the youth development funding issue and voiced his fear about the financial future of the club.

He said: “We are moving to a point where Coleraine have the chance, with European money and success domestically, that we can become a proper grown-up club with a proper grown-up business plan.

“Unless the opportunity is managed there is easily a possibility that the club could go back to the way it was and go under because as far as I can ascertain there is no control over costs whatsoever.”

Simpson added he had concerns about suggestions that £24,000 had been spent on corporate hospitality on Irish Cup final day and £13,000 on 52 club suits.

He also outlined his worry about the club accounts and questioned why the Coleraine FC AGM in June had been cancelled. It is now due to take place on August 8.

Coleraine chairman McKendry explained that last month’s AGM was postponed as he and other key figures would have been absent.

On the financial state of the club, he said: “Coleraine FC has never been as well run in its existence as it is now. We’ve never had funds in the bank that we currently have.”

Asked about Mr Simpson’s fears of the 2005 nightmare re-occurring, McKendry declared that the club was run as a business and was now a profitable outfit.

On Cup final spending he was adamant that corporate hospitality was not close to £24,000 though stated that around £10,000 had been spent on suits for the big day.

Regarding the complaint from the Harry Gregg Foundation about youth development funds, McKendry said: “We have legal agreements set up between ourselves and the Coleraine Football Club Academy to allow the Harry Gregg Foundation to operate within the Coleraine FC Academy.

“It is written in black and white that we will contribute from any development fees that come in as and when the club can afford to do so.

“In relation to the fund set up to assist in development we have no need to give anyone any funding in relation to the Solidarity and other Development fees at this stage because the players who have gone across to England were players under an amateur contract who were signed to Coleraine, which is a senior club.  The players belong to the football club not the Harry Gregg Foundation or Academy.”

A UEFA statement sent to Sunday Life on the issue of solidarity payments to clubs reads: “Every year, UEFA sends a circular letter to all UEFA’s member associations and requires, inter alia, a confirmation that the payment is aimed at supporting youth development activities in professional football as well as information on the exact distribution amongst the clubs as decided by the relevant competent body, i.e. League or Association.

“If so requested by UEFA, the national league or association must be able to provide the UEFA administration with evidence at any time that the money has been transferred properly and used appropriately.”

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