Hard work pays off for Westport United

Comment & Opinion

PHASE TWO The announcement of €2.8 million in funding from the IIP fund will allow Westport Utd to continue to develop their site around United Park on the Golf Course Road in Westport. Pic: Conor McKeown

Announcement of €2.8 million in funding is a game-changer

Last week in The Mayo News, we carried a press release from Westport United football club stating that they were to make an historic announcement on Thursday which was ‘the biggest news in the hundred and eleven year history of the club’.
Rumours abounded around the west Mayo town on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as to what was going to be announced and there was certainly a real sense of anticipation in the Westport Town Hall Theatre on Thursday evening as local TD Michael Ring arrived.
He was the man charged with confirming that the club had indeed received a large amount of funding, but there was gasps of amazement when he revealed the actual amount to be received.
€2.8 million is the whopping sum the club is to receive and it will all be invested in the phase two development of United Park on the Golf Course Road, and will cost in the region of €3.3 million in total.
It took €1.9 million to complete phase one and phase two will see the development of a floodlit international-size 4G astroturf pitch, two astroturf cages, a third grass pitch and an extension to the clubhouse with a gymnasium and other facilities.
The announcement is the end of a painstaking process for the club’s development committee, who a number of years ago were alerted to a funding stream put in place by the Government in 2012.
The Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) is a pathway for non-EEA nationals to secure immigration permission to Ireland on the basis of long-term investment of a sum of money in a project that has been approved for that purpose by the Department of Justice and other Government stakeholders.
The IIP was introduced to encourage inward investment for the creation of business and employment opportunities in the State. The programme is designed to encourage investors and business professionals from outside the European Economic Area to avail of opportunities of investing and locating their business interests in Ireland and acquire a secure residency status in Ireland.
Westport Utd, as a limited company, were able to apply to benefit from the fund as other organisations have in the past, including the Western Alzheimers Foundation and Mayo Roscommon Hospice, and the funding will be used to benefit the wider Westport community, and not just those involved with the soccer club.
As the financial director of the project, Peter Flynn explained, the facilities at the club are already being used widely by a number of organisations.
“This was never just about soccer. This is about our community. We have ‘Football For All’ at United Park every week, we are partnered with Western Care, we work with Mayo College for Further Education, all the local schools, the Covey Wheelers, the Triathlon club and so many more local organisations. The completion of this project will benefit all and we look forward to working towards that over the coming months,” said Flynn.
In order to secure the huge amount of funding, there is a very stringent and lengthy process of engagement with the Department of Justice, and Brian Farrell of ARDSA Project Management, was also on hand at Thursday’s announcement to make this abundantly clear.
“A lot of other clubs and organisations have looked at the programme, and some have been successful, but it’s very difficult. Without the hard and diligent work of the committee in Westport United over the years the boxes would not have been ticked and the application would have failed,” said Brian.
So Thursday’s announcement is the result of a huge amount of hard work from a group of volunteers who spotted an opportunity for the betterment of their community. Of course, the huge amount of work to be carried out over the next three years will also create employment in the wider Westport community, and that too makes this a good news story for all concerned.