Almost a year and a half ahead of the event, work for the hosting of the AGM of the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) by the Clare and District Soccer League has already gotten underway.
The association’s chief executive officer, John Delaney, accompanied by director of services Gerry McDermott and Siobhán Keane, events manager with the FAI, were in Ennis last Thursday to meet with officials of Clare soccer and representatives of various tourism interests in the county.
Addressing the gathering at the West County Hotel, Mr Delaney said, “The old way was to have a one-day meeting, normally in Dublin, but this has changed and we spend a week in the host county now. It started in Kerry in 2007 and went to Mayo a year later, to Monaghan last year and this year we will be in Wexford. This format has had a huge impact in the counties we have attended,” he said.
“Soccer is played in every town in the country now and it is only right that every child should pick their sport and not be told what to play.”
The FAI official spoke highly of the facilities that are available in Clare, before stating “for the first time, Clare will host an underage international during the AGM week here and it will be in Tulla on foot of a promise we made to them when we opened their facilities”.
“The AGM week is in two parts. There is a festival of football from Monday to Thursday, when we visit the clubs, and then on Friday and Saturday attention switches to the annual meeting,” Ms Keane said.
“The FAI will give up to €100,000 in grants to the clubs in the county for development and the cheques will be presented during the week of the AGM,” Mr McDermott explained.
He added that around 250 delegates will attend the annual general meeting and he also spoke about the delegates’ dinner, at which a number of awards, including the club of the year award, the service to football award and the coach of the year award, will be presented.
“The decision to choose Clare as the venue for the 2011 AGM is an important step in the continued development of soccer, not only in County Clare but in the wider region,” Mayor of Clare, Councillor Tony Mulcahy said.
“It was very reassuring to see representatives from the business, sports and tourism sectors gather for this meeting. There is no doubt that the FAI’s decision to host its AGM here next year will help promote County Clare on a national level.
“The benefits for the county in hosting this event are significant and I have no doubt that the many tourism groups and business organisations represented here will play their part in ensuring the event is a success for everyone concerned.”
The mayor added, “The FAI’s announcement comes at a time when there is already plenty of activity underway in Clare aimed at increasing participation in sport.
“The County Clare Recreation & Sport Strategy 2009-2011, the first of its kind to be developed in the county, was launched in 2009.
“One of the primary objectives of the strategy is to achieve universal access to recreation and sports activities through the promotion and development of new and existing multi-purpose community facilities. I believe that the FAI, through its various outreach programmes and its initiation of football development officers across the country, will contribute to the strategy’s long-term vision being achieved.”
He concluded by paying tribute to everyone associated with soccer in the county for their ongoing excellent work in promoting the sport at a local level. “The success of the work being carried out is reflected in the success of our county teams in national competition.”
The AGM and ancillary week-long events will attract Ireland’s biggest soccer names past and present including national coach Giovanni Trapattoni and his assistant Marco Tardelli, Ray Houghton and Paul McGrath.
Clare Soccer will benefit with a cash injection of €100,000, which will be distributed in grants to clubs in the county.
John Sweeney of Clare Sports Partnership welcomed the announcement, stating that it ties in perfectly with the county’s sport and recreation strategy that aims to ensure that Clare is known as an ‘active county’.
Other speakers at last week’s announcement included Michael Guilfoyle, who represented Ennis Town Council and the Clare Schoolboys Soccer League and Brian Harrington from the Lynch Hotel Group and John Sweeney, Clare Sports Partnership.
The provisional date for the AGM is the week of June 27 to July 2 (2011) but confirmation of these dates will not come until this year’s gathering in Wexford.
Following the announcement, a working group comprising of the stakeholders in Clare soccer, local agencies and Clare Sports Partnership was formed to ensure that the AGM will be a success for the county.