FINN Harps are to seek answers as to why their stadium development was excluded from the latest round of Government funding.
In spite of the latest set-back on the development, Harps – who have expressed ‘surprise and disappointment’ at the announcement – are to communicate with the Department in the coming weeks before determining the next move.
Harps’ project was left off a round of funding from the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF) announced on Friday by Minister Shane Ross.
Donegal Daily/Donegal Sport Hub has learned that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is to write to Harps on the matter.
It is understood from sources closes to the Department that they would look favourably on the provision of short-term funding to keep the development alive, however this would be subject to an updated application from the club.
Harps officials had strongly expected to have the €6.7 million project, to be known as ’The Donegal Stadium’, included on Friday’s list, with an article in Thursday’s Irish Times indicating that their optimism had a solid foundation.
The subsequent news left Harps’ plans in limbo and sparked real fears that the work that has already taken place on the site would be in vain.
Work has stalled on the development since late 2014 when the structure of a stand – intended to incorporate 1,900 seats – was first erected.
In 2018, the Department issued a €304,000 grant to progress design work and to provide up-to-date costing for completion of the work.
Previously, €1.2million was provided between two allocations by a previous Government in 2007 and 2008.
This website understands that Harps’ application did not receive a high enough score when it was reviewed by Department officials.
Among the reasons for this, it is believed, is that the project – which was first mooted as far back as the AGM of the Finn Harps Co-Operative Society Ltd in 2004 – was ranked as ‘priority number four’ by the Football Association of Ireland.
Just one FAI-backed project, namely the Munster Centre of Excellence in Glanmire, was awarded funding of €2m under the LSSIF.
It is understood that Harps have been liaising closely with Donegal County Council during the application process and the local authority remain supportive of the project.
“The project had previously been approved by the Department of Sport, and commenced on site, with substantial work carried out,” the club said in a statement.
“However the Department were unable to continue funding during the recession and work ceased.
“In 2017, given the original commitment to the project and the fact that significant funding was already incurred, the Department proposed a new model to deliver the project, and the Club agreed to same.
“Since then the Club have implemented what has been required in line with the new model proposed, and received a Department allocation in respect of same last year.”
Phase one of the development is to see the completion of a 1,900-seater stand, changing rooms, offices, a new pitch and floodlights. Harps had believed that funding approval for these works was ‘imminent’ and have stressed that the project is ‘shovel ready’.
The club statement said: “The Club welcomes that fact that the Department have already committed and spent over €1m on the project, however, we are concerned that further delays are only going to result in increased costs, and the structures already in place on site will deteriorate.
“In conclusion, the project cannot be delivered without the support and approval of the Department of Sport.”
Harps are awaiting formal communication from the Department, but have vowed to follow up to discuss commitments that have already been given.Tags: