Representatives raise funding issue

SINN Féin MLA Billy Leonard has raised the precarious funding position of the Milk Cup tournament at the Assembly's Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure.

The organising committee has said it is concerned that they will not be able to maintain the tournament at its present level 54 teams from 19 countries if the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure does not change its mind on a funding decision.

The Department has offered money for an impact study and sustainability report but nothing towards the actual organisation of the tournament which is the main priority.

Mr Leonard (pictured) told the Times: “Funding for the Milk Cup has, like everything else, been hit by the recession.

“It needs money for the actual running of the tournament yet the Department is offering money for everything else but that. It seems crazy that money is available but not being directed where needed, especially in these difficult times.

“I raised this issue at the Committee for Culture Arts and Leisure of which I am a member.

“I have got the support of the Committee members in asking the Minister to urgently meet with the Milk Cup organisers with a view to directing the funding to where it is needed, that is, the organisation of this year’s tournament.

This would give a breathing space to examine the longer term issues.

“The Minister must realise that such tournaments are sought after by many other countries so we must protect what has been a very good tournament and advertisement for the North Coast area.”

East Londonderry TUV candidate, William Ross said that the “loss of the Milk Cup would be disastrous to the area”.

He added: “The loss of sponsorship is a savage blow and no doubt largely due to the economic downturn.

If the Milk Cup competition were to vanish the economic loss would be very large and, even worse, probably permanent, for there would be a grave danger of some other area running it and picking up all the benefits of the hard work done by the organisers over the last thirty years.

“I therefore call on the department of Government concerned to get a move on and provide enough to replace the lost sponsorship cash to tide the xompetition over until economic conditions improve.

“All football fans here can recall present international players in action here. Don’t deprive the present generation of young people a similar experience and happy memories.”