Foyle Cup fears as tourist board cash refused

Celtic and former Derry City striker Paddy McCourt
Image caption Celtic and former Derry City winger Paddy McCourt played in the Foyle Cup

The organiser of an international youth football tournament in Londonderry has criticised the Northern Ireland Tourist Board for refusing to fund the event.

The Foyle Cup is held every summer and brings thousands of people to the city.

In the past, the Department of Culture funded the event to the tune of £40,000 but organisers have been told it no longer meets the relevant criteria.

Michael Hutton said this year's tournament will go ahead, but not on the same scale as previous years.

"We've been running this event since 1992. We've built it up from a one day tournament to a six day international event catering for 144 teams," he said.

"We have never been in the red and we have shown our organising capabilities so to give an event like ours 32 points out of 65 is absolutely ridiculous."

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board said its application process was "robust" and would only support events that are proven to support the tourism industry.

"The Northern Ireland Tourist Board's events scheme aims to grow visitor numbers and revenue through events," said a spokesperson.

"Unfortunately, the Foyle Cup did not achieve a passable score for public funding as a tourist event. This decision was upheld following appeal. Ten key criteria, including visitor numbers, economic impact and capacity for event growth, were assessed".

Important Role

BBC sports reporter Ritchie Kelly said the Foyle Cup has played an important role in the development of football in the north west.

"Players in England and Scotland have come through the tournament and most of the players in the Derry City team have played in the Foyle Cup.

"It is absolutely vital and it would be a huge blow to football in this area if anything happened to the Foyle Cup," he said.

Local politicians have backed the organisers in their bid to have the decision overturned.

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney has sought a meeting with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

"We have contacted the minister's office and we have also contacted the tourist board and we will be seeking clarification as to why this funding application has been refused.

"In our opinion this defies logic so we will be pursuing this to ensure this tournament goes ahead and is given the proper funding and recognition," he said.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said the impact of the Foyle Cup could not be underestimated and said the tourist board must think again.