The chairman of the Northern Ireland Cup, Victor Leonard, has described the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland’s 30-year sponsorship of the international soccer tournament as “a remarkable and generous example of dedicated support for youth football.”
Commenting on the Dairy Council’s decision not to renew its backing of the event for such a sustained period, Victor said: “There is no doubt in my mind that we owe a lot of what we have achieved in terms of establishing a globally recognisable brand to the generosity of the Dairy Council.
“From as early as our second tournament in 1984 the body, then known as the Milk Marketing Board for Northern Ireland, had recognised what we were trying to achieve for youth football against the backdrop of difficult times in our country.
“Throughout three decades, the Dairy Council has fully endorsed our work and assisted us to expand from a 16-team competition with a handful of competitors from outside Ireland to become one of the world’s best known and respected international sporting events at this level.”
Victor continued: “We have enjoyed an almost unique association with a sponsor whose product was ideally linked to our ethos of encouraging young people to become involved in a healthy sporting past time.
“We came through some very demanding times when the news coming out of Northern Ireland was not conducive to promoting the Province as a suitable destination for overseas teams.
“The Dairy Council and in particular its chief executive Dr. Mike Johnston, assisted our efforts to develop and expand the competition into something very special - something that has become a three-tier event attracting worldwide coverage.
“I would personally like to acknowledge Dr, Johnston’s commitment to the Milk Cup. It has been a wonderful relationship and I thank him and his staff for their efforts.
“The organising committee is endeavouring to look at new revenue streams as we seek to take the Northern Ireland Cup forward.
“We have been reviewing the tournament and a number of ways to progress the event and enhance the experience for all players who participate and our loyal supporters.
“I wish to place on record that today’s news will not effect the 2014 tournament which will go ahead as planned next summer.”