Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport, Chris Andrews TD, has today welcomed the publication of the FAI Facility Investment Vision and Strategy.
Deputy Andrews encouraged the government to study and engage with the report, and added that there is now a pressing need for the government to work hand in glove with the association and local authorities to plot a way forward to develop the high standard of facilities that our sportspeople and spectators deserve.
Teachta Andrews said:
“This report is a long time coming. It has been clear for years that, right across the state, too many of the sports facilities that service both grassroots and League of Ireland football are sub-standard. Our sportspeople and spectators deserve better than this.
“I welcome the publication of the FAI Facility Investment Vision and Strategy. It shows that the FAI are ambitious with plans for the long-term development of Irish football and I look forward to examining their recommendations and findings in full.
“Despite decades of failing to invest in facilities, we are now in an incredibly exciting time for Irish football.
“The success of Ireland qualifying for the Women’s World Cup next month for the very first time is a momentous achievement that has seen a massive surge in public and media interest in the women’s game that will undoubtedly inspire increased participation in football among young girls right across the country.
“The knock-on effect of that success is clear. In the past three months alone, we have seen the League of Ireland Women’s Premier Division attendance record broken twice, by Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians.
“We are now seeing sold-out signs outside stadiums at League of Ireland Men’s Premier Division games on a weekly basis, and the FAI’s new academy model has the potential to provide a genuine pathway for players from underage level, to League of Ireland level, and right through to our senior international set-up.
“But sold-out signs at League of Ireland games, while positive, show that many of our stadiums are no longer fit for purpose.
“In Tallaght Stadium and South Dublin County Council, we have a perfect example of what can be achieved when local authorities work with League of Ireland clubs to develop a facility that has become a focal point for the local community and one that they and Shamrock Rovers are immensely proud of. That has to be the standard we aspire to.
“As well as working with the FAI to plot a way forward to develop quality stadiums and training facilities into the future, the likes of the projects to redevelop Dalymount Park and construct the Donegal Community Stadium have dragged on for too long, and I hope that they will be included in the next Large Scale Sporting Infrastructure Fund to finally deliver for both Bohemians and Finn Harps.
“There is now a pressing responsibility on those in government and in the FAI to ensure that we seize the opportunities of the momentum we are seeing in Irish football and deliver facilities that enable the sport to continue to grow and flourish for generations to come.
“Funding football facilities is not a one-way street either. Grassroots football and League of Ireland clubs give so much back to their communities, more so now than ever before. Our League of Ireland clubs are now rooted in the very heart of their communities and are crucially important outlets of social inclusion and well-being.
“Three years ago, I published the Sinn Féin Vision and Strategy for Sport Facilities. Our strategy outlined the need to ensure that as the population grows, that sport facilities are there to meet the needs of communities.
“We now need to see the government, together with local authorities, working hand in glove with the FAI and all sports governing bodies, planning effectively and ambitiously for the future of Irish sport.’’