FOYLE CUP: fears as funding refused

THE Northern Ireland Tourist Board has declined to detail how a soccer competition which attracts over 140 international teams to Londonderry every year has failed to meet new funding criteria.

For each of the past five years, the Foyle Cup has generated more than 13,000 bed nights from international visitors but organisers say it will not be able to continue next year without financial support.

The popular summer competition – which helped launch the careers of local players Darron Gibson (Manchester United) and Paddy McCourt (Celtic) – has this year been turned down for £40,000 worth of funding by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB).

The NITB said that this was the first year it had taken on responsibility for funding the competition, which was previously funded by the department of culture, arts and leisure.

NITB said it had created new criteria which aimed to increase “visitor spend and numbers”. These were developed after “detailed consultation with the local tourist industry and benchmarking of other event funding programmes”, a spokesman said.

He added: “Successful applicants to this year’s programme were required to demonstrate how their events would meet specific requirements as set out in the application process. Following the comprehensive assessment process, the Foyle Cup promoters were not successful in their application for funding support.

“Subsequently, the application was subject to an independent appeals process and NITB’s decision not to award funding was upheld.”

He said Foyle Cup’s scores were “confidential” but had been shared with its organisers.

However tournament organiser Michael Hutton was left perplexed by the decision.

“For the life of me, I cannot see how the event fails to meet the key criteria for funding,” he told the Derry Journal.

“I can only suggest that there must be a problem with the criteria. The tournament has a worldwide reputation and generates a tremendous amount of income for the local economy. But, sometimes, you have to wonder if certain authorities are aware of this.”

Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has written to tourism minister Arlene Foster.

“Many people are gravely concerned not only about the effect this decision will have on the future of this tournament but how it will have a detrimental effect on the hundreds of young people who participate in it,” he said. See inside for more.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan appealed to NITB chief executive Alan Clarke to reconsider the decision.

“This competition is a landmark event in the North West calendar,” he said.

See inside for more.