REPRESENTATIVES from Coleraine Football Club made a heartfelt plea to Coleraine Borough Council last Tuesday night in their fight to have a 3G pitch installed at Coleraine Showgrounds.
Outside Cloonavin, around 100 supporters, many members of Coleraine Academy gathered to back the campaign for the 3G facility.
First team manager, Oran Kearney and Academy Chairman, Andy Alcorn, spoke to members attending the Leisure and Environment meeting.
Mr Alcorn told members that Coleraine’s flagship project at Ballysally was ‘under threat’ without the use of 3G facilities.
The project, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom sees children from teams across the borough of Coleraine and beyond, playing nine-a-side football
Appealing to those in attendance, Mr Alcorn spoke about Coleraine’s role in the community not just as a football club, but as a community provider.
He outlined various projects that the Club have been involved in including an art project with CRUN reaching out to young people and a history project in conjunction with the IFA.
He added that next month Coleraine Football Club would be involved in Men’s Health Week looking at issues such as obesity and lifestyle.
Oran Kearney told members that a 3G facility would allow Coleraine to compete with the top teams in the league.
“We need a fit for purpose facility,” said the first team boss.
“This kind of facility would bring a lot of quodos to the Club,” added Kearney.
Outlining facilities at neighbouring Councils, Mr Alcorn spoke about 3G pitches in Ballymoney and Limavady and added that local teams were travelling to use these facilities as they didn’t have the use of them in the Coleraine area.
He said: “Flagship projects like that at Ballysally are under serious threat. There is a series risk that teams will drift away, and they wont come back.
“There is an immediate need, immediately,” told Mr Alcorn.
Concluding, the Academy Chairman called on Coleraine Borough Council to lobby Ministers in Stormont about their social development application for a 3G pitch at the Showgrounds, and not compete with it, through their own application for a 3G facility at Rugby Avenue.
He added: “Assist our programmes, don’t compete with them.
“Recognise us as a community facilitator not only a sporting club. We’re trying to do so much more as a community provider,” told Mr Alcorn.
“A 3G facility at the Showgrounds is an immediate need for the community,” he added.
DUP man Alderman Maurice Bradley, declared an interest as a member of the Academy, but questioned an issue raised by Mr Alcorn during his presentation.
He asked Corporate Director of Leisure Services Richard Baker to clarify if money generated by Council through coaching courses was directed back into the sport again.
Mr Baker told the meeting that “no revenue” was generated by these courses, and that any money raised was used to pay for instructors and facilities.
Councillor Adrian McQuillan backed Coleraine’s need for a 3G pitch saying: “Surely we could team up with the Football Club and allow our Sports Development Officers to be based at the Showgrounds.
The DUP man asked Mr Alcorn to outline what the future would hold if the Academy continued without a 3G facility.
In reply, Mr Alcorn told the meeting: “We’re involved in all aspects of community work, but we have only dipped our toes in the water. We cannot develop without a facility.
“We are already struggling to provide for what we have, and we fear that we will loose out to other areas.”
UUP councillor David Harding said he was ‘impressed’ with the presentation and added: “This is not just about football it is about supporting, assisting and being in a partnership.”
As the debate continued Independent councillor Christine Alexander proposed that a working group be set up.
“It is clear that demand has out grown what is there.
“We need to set up a sub committee to move forward and see if there is anything this Council can do to assist the Club.
“We are funding the North West 200, the Air Show – we need to support this - something that is in our own community.”
Alliance councillor Yvonne Boyle seconded the proposal and members agreed to set up the sub committee which will include, the Academy, Coleraine Borough Council and owners of the Showgrounds.
In a briefing after the meeting, Mr Baker told revealed that in the last 15 years Coleraine BOrough Council had contributed around £230,000 to Coleraine Football CLub.
Brekaing this down, Mr Baker said that in 2006 over £70,000 was spent on changing units for the Milk Cup, in 2005, £10,000 was contributed for flood lights and in 2008 Council handed over £90,0000 to help with various improvement project around the Ballycastle Road Club.