Wednesday, 31 May 2006
John O'Donoghue (Minister, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Kerry South, Fianna Fail)
Plans relating to any proposed relocation of Eircom league football grounds is entirely a matter for individual clubs to decide in consultation with the Eircom league board of control. I made no request to the club concerned to halt work on any proposed move. I have, however, requested the FAI to discuss the concept of ground sharing with a number of Dublin clubs.
The recent Genesis report on the Eircom league made a number of recommendations across areas such as revised structures, marketing, community involvement and financial viability as part of a radical reform required by the league to secure its future. It also signalled the need for Dublin clubs to consider ground sharing as a means of securing the significant public investment required to provide modern city stadia necessary to attract higher attendances. This acknowledges the particular difficulty facing clubs located in Dublin seeking to expand or develop in locations where costs are prohibitive. The improvement of facilities to ensure high standard, safe, family friendly stadia conforming with club licensing requirements was identified as a key requirement of the report.
I am fully supportive of the FAI's drive to develop the Eircom league, bringing higher standards, improved facilities and increased audiences impacting on the wider development of football in Ireland. My announcement last July of the allocation of €5.275 million in grants involving 16 Eircom league clubs underlines my commitment to the development of facilities for the Eircom league within the context of club licensing requirements and my support for a sensible and planned approach to this area.
The concept of ground sharing among top flight football clubs is not a new one with many examples of top flight football teams in European cities. It is certainly worth careful consideration in Dublin. I have previously expressed my support for the concept which could lead to the existence of two modestly sized high quality modern soccer stadia in Dublin which might serve the needs of the main Dublin clubs. It is in this context that the issue of ground sharing among Dublin clubs has been discussed among other issues at meetings between me, my officials and the FAI.
I have previously indicated my commitment to the completion of the new soccer stadium in Tallaght and I would support a similar development on Dublin's north side in an existing or new location. Against that background, the FAI had engaged in discussions with the main Dublin clubs to identify the options and the main issues for the clubs concerned. Clearly the recent decision arrived at by the members of a prominent Dublin football club to sell its stadium underlines the autonomy that the clubs enjoy and that, ultimately, it is for the clubs and their members to decide on their future.