Call to put national football training centre in Londonderry

Aerial view of the Brandywell Sports Stadium.  Picture taken by Aveen Peoples. 3004Ap1
Aerial view of the Brandywell Sports Stadium. Picture taken by Aveen Peoples. 3004Ap1

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín refused to comment on whether or not the Brandywell should be the location of a new national football training centre after launching a consultation on subregional stadia on Monday.

But she confirmed Derry City Football Club and Council will be able to apply for funding under several funding strands.

Applicants must either be an IFA-affiliated club or a non-IFA-affiliated club with a ground located in Northern Ireland that hosts Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL), Irish Football Association (IFA), UEFA or League of Ireland fixtures.

Strand 2, which relates to significant subregional stadia and Strand 4, which relates to the provision of a national training centre, could potentially benefit Londonderry.

A budget of circa £17 million will be made available for Strand 2, with a maximum award of £3million available per venue.

A budget of circa £3 million will be made available for Strand 4.

Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney asked if a national training centre should be located in Londonderry.

He said: “I note and welcome the fact that it is also going to allow for non-affiliated clubs, particularly those that play in the FAI league, which would include Derry City, in my home town.”

He asked: “Is the Minister of the view that Derry City, perhaps, is well placed to make a bid for this, given that the club plays in the FAI’s league, and that the siting of the national training centre there in the future would be more than appropriate?”

The Minister replied: “I am certainly not going to cite where any training centre should be located. The Member is right; part of the criteria for support through the subregional programme can be for NIFL, IFA, UEFA or Football Association of Ireland league fixtures, which includes the Brandywell.

“I look forward to and anticipate, from the Member’s constituency but particularly for that geographical area, a lot of feedback into the consultation. If everybody who approached me any time I went up to that part of the town feeds back into this, I anticipate that the majority will come from Derry city, north Belfast, east Belfast and the rest.”

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) MLA Jim Allister asked why beneficiaries didn’t have to be affiliates of the IFA and if that was designed to qualify the Brandywell.

“The Minister has been very dogmatic when it comes to the sport of boxing that, to benefit from funding, you must be affiliated to a specific and sole governing body, yet, when it comes to football, there is no requirement for affiliation to the IFA. Why is there that distinction and bias? Is it so that the Brandywell can qualify?” he asked.

The Sports Minister replied: “The Member is credited with being extremely intelligent, and he is also given credit for having the ability to scrutinise things, so I assume that he has done that and just does not like the answers that he is getting. Boxing needs to be affiliated to a governing body on receipt of a letter of offer. If there is not a governing body that the Member feels recognises his cause, he should support the boxers — end of story.”