Milk Cup ‘nets area £1.2m’

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LAST year’s Milk Cup tournament pulled in over £1.2m to the north coast, Ballymoney councillors were told last week.

Ahead of a decision on how much Ballymoney Borough Council will give towards this year’s event, members of the council heard a presentation on behalf of the organisers of the elite youth football tournament.

Joy Ferguson provided a range of figures obtained through questionnaires distributed among those who attended in 2011.

The results showed a total of 59,126 visits with roughly 15,283 visitors attending on average four games.

The total net visitor spend was calculated at £815,468 with an average daily spend of £27.82 and accommodation spend of £37.13.

Last year there were 1,446 participants who had a net spend of £388,219, the figures claimed.

The organisers’ spend was said to be £63,000 resulting in a direct economic input to the combined host towns of £1.267m.

The organisers claimed the figures reflected a seven-fold increase on the £185,000 investment in the tournament from public sector funds and an 84-fold return on Ballymoney Borough Council’s £15,000 contribution.

UUP councillor Bill Kennedy said the presentation was very beneficial.

“The Milk Cup has been one of the best events over the years,” he added.

“It is testimony to the organisers who have kept it going for 30 years and are improving on it.

“I think it’s great we have such an event in the area.” Mr Kennedy said however one complaint he often hears from local people is that there is a lack of north Antrim based players taking part in the showpiece.

He said since the format was changed to cater for county squads, there had been a distinct lack of local boys selected.

Milk Cup chairman Victor Leonard said the organisers played no part in the selection of squads and it is up to coaches to select the very best players as their disposal.

He said Ballymoney-based Glentoran player Stephen Carson - who has featured for the senior Northern Ireland team in the past- had been involved in squad selection for the County Antrim team last year and agreed there were no players good enough in this area to replace any of those on the panel.

The Milk Cup’s Jim Sandford added: “The reason we moved in the first place was the top class teams like Man United were not going to return.

“We had to do something to raise the standard of local teams. That’s why we moved to counties.”

Independent councillor Roma McAfee asked if any of the teams had stayed in the Ballymoney borough in the past.

Mr Leonard replied: “The problem is there is no hotel here that could accommodate a team.

“Now teams demand so much.”

Cllr McAfee said she was aware of a squad staying at Dunluce School and asked if similar arrangements could be made in Ballymoney as a way of encouraging investment in the town with players spending the week locally.

“When Man United’s youth team comes the facilities have to be to the same standard as if the first team was coming,” said Mr Leonard.

“You then multiply that by 48.

“I think the days of schools and guest houses are gone.”

Cllr McAfee then said business owners in Ballymoney she had spoken to said their takings were actually down for the week of the Milk Cup as the games at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre take people away from the town centre.

“Some business owners are not too amused in the area,” she added.

Mr Leonard said there were plans to put back-to-back games on in host towns in the future as a way of encouraging visitors to spend the day in the areas hosting matches.

Mr Sandford said: “We are taking a small number of games right across Northern Ireland for counties small games.

“A county hosting a game is paying £2,500 per game.

“If there are 16 games here that would be £40,000.

“We didn’t make the decision to move from the Cricket Park to where we are now, it was a council decision.

“It is hard to fault us for that.”