Shelving football stadium grants ‘has shafted Republic of Ireland league squad Derry FC’ as it puts plans for Brandywell into deep freeze

The shelving of a football fund aimed at upgrading stadia across Northern Ireland has not just hit Irish League squads, but has “shafted” Derry City too.

Brandywell as seen via Google Maps
Brandywell as seen via Google Maps

SDLP councillor Brian Tierney said that the team is midway through a revamp of its Brandywell home, but that the club will now have to go “back to the drawing board” because the expected cash will no longer materialise.

Unusually, Derry City FC plays in the Republic of Ireland’s FAI league, not the Irish League where the overwhelming bulk of the Province’s clubs compete.

This means that the problems caused by halting the sports grant do not just stop at Northern Ireland’s border, but will affect fans across the island whose clubs compete against Derry.

Sinn Fein communities minister Deirdre Hargey announced this week that she was not going to progress a £36.2 million programme to redevelop “sub-regional” (that is, small scale) football grounds due to the absence of a functioning Executive.

Ms Hargey has blamed the DUP, claiming the party’s decision to yank Paul Givan out of his role as First Minister has forced the fund into the deep-freeze.

The DUP however has pointed out that the redevelopment of the GAA’s Casement Park in west Belfast is still set to continue under minister Hargey.

She told reporters on Wednesday that the very idea there is any kind of sectarian motive behind her decisions is a “farcical mistruth”.

Councillor Tierney – a lifelong Derry City fan who is standing as an MLA in the upcoming election – explained that the local council had footed the bill for Phase One of the Brandwell revamp (believed to have cost somewhere in the region of £7m, and which transformed the turf pitch into a 4G one).

He said that since at least 2016, the understanding has been that the cash for Phase Two (which he said had not been 100% costed as yet) would be coming from the stadium fund.

This would mean significant work to at least two of the spectator stands, bringing the venue up to European standards.

“It almost feels to Derry fans as if we’re being shafted,” he said.

“I don’t where we’re going to look for the money for Phase Two of the Brandywell.

“For us as council, we have to go back to the drawing board to see if we can fund it.

“We were hinging our hopes of the full redevelopment of the Brandywell coming in Phase Two with this fund. With that not coming, I don’t know where we can find the money.

“It’s a big disappointment for Derry city.”

He said that the other major club in the city, Institute (based on the Waterside), were hoping to avail of the fund too.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “The minster has been clear that the £36.2m to regenerate stadiums is ring-fenced. The minister is absolutely committed to delivering thi...

“It is well-known that options for the future of the Sub Regional Stadia Programme requires Executive approval. The collapse of the Executive is preventing the regeneration of local stadiums.”

She also today met with Irish League officials “to progress this project to the next stage”.

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