UEFA cash boost for two local clubs as Institute consider future
Two clubs that were hit by floods last summer have received a major cash boost from UEFA to help them rebuild.
NIFL Championship leaders Institute FC has received €160,880 (£142,658) from the UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee, while the Committee provided €57,860 (£51,306) to help Ardstraw FC of the Northern Ireland Intermediate League.
Last August, Institute's 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.
The club has had to move out of Drumahoe completely this season and is playing at Wilton Park, home of North-West Junior League club Churchill United. Going forward, Stute are still unsure where their future lies.
"There's a great deal of uncertainty, but it looks difficult for us to envisage going back to the Riverside Stadium," club chairman Bill Anderson said earlier this week.
"We still have some serious problems and we've been informed by the insurance company we won't get flood insurance moving forward."
Hosting games at Derry City's refurbished Brandywell Stadium has even 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."
Reacting to the UEFA cash boost, Anderson said: "The officials, management and players at Institute FC are absolutely delighted with this assistance. I would like to thank UEFA for granting it and the Irish FA for making the case on our behalf. This money will be significant in our future plans for the club as we seek to build a new home for Institute FC."
Water engulfed Ardstraw FC's ground's perimeter fencing, pitch and changing facilities. The County Tyrone club has spent the past seven months fundraising to help restore the ground to its former condition.
Ardstraw chairman Aaron Hempton said: "It's great that European football's governing body is concerned about a small intermediate club in Northern Ireland and saw fit to give this award. We are delighted and will use the funding to restore our pitch and clubhouse."
The natural disaster grants from the UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee represent almost half of the total available fund for hardship support across Europe.
UEFA makes a yearly budget of €500,000 available to help rebuild football infrastructure when hit by natural disasters. In addition, in times when the negative effects of climate change are being felt more and more and as a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goal 13 Climate Action, UEFA has a flight carbon compensation system in place and applies principles of sustainable event management.
President of the Irish FA, David Martin, said: "I would like to thank UEFA for the substantial support that it has provided for both Institute FC and Ardstraw FC through its Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee.
"Our membership of UEFA means that we were able to draw attention to the difficulties that the two clubs had endured and I am pleased that European football's governing body responded so comprehensively. I hope that these funds will provide considerable assistance to both Institute FC and Ardstraw FC as they aim to restore the damage that they suffered last summer."
Belfast Telegraph Digital