FAI block top soccer friendlies in Thomond Park

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

LIMERICK soccer fans look set to miss out on the chance to see Chelsea and Celtic play in Thomond Park after the Football Association of Ireland refused to sanction a lucrative pre-season tournament in the stadium.

LIMERICK soccer fans look set to miss out on the chance to see Chelsea and Celtic play in Thomond Park after the Football Association of Ireland refused to sanction a lucrative pre-season tournament in the stadium.

Thomond Park had lined up the Champions League finalists and Scottish Premier League champions plus two other “leading European teams” for a tournament to take place on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

However, in a repeat of the controversial decision to refuse to allow Limerick FC play a friendly with Barcelona in 2010, the FAI have refused to give the green light for the tournament, which would have considerably bolstered the local economy.

John Cantwell, stadium boss in Thomond Park, confirmed that the venue “had the opportunity to host a tournament”.

“We received an offer from a leading promoter to hold a tournament with some big teams including Chelsea and Celtic and some European teams,” he said.

“We obviously put in a request to the FAI, because we can’t hold it without sanction from them, but that hasn’t been forthcoming. The reason being given is that they have an alternative, another tournament planned for the same period.”

The FAI announced in February that the Dublin Super Cup would still be going ahead, despite ending an agreement with Endemol Sport, who ran it last year, with Manchester City, Celtic and Inter Milan playing an Airtricity League XI in July 2011.

“To date we have not got confirmation of this other tournament,” explained Mr Cantwell. “Nothing has been released about it. They have said that if the situation changes, whereby they are not having a tournament, they would be right back on to us. That is the state of play. The economic impact would be significant, that profile of an event for Limerick and the region would be phenomenal, so we are keen to do it, but we have to have sanction from the relevant body.”

Requests for comment from the FAI were not returned at the time of going to press, however the body said in February that it had “reached a new and similar agreement with one of the principals involved in last year’s competition, Iconic Worldwide Events, to host a similar tournament in Dublin”.

“The Iconic run tournament will continue to host top named British and European clubs and details will be announced by Iconic and the Football Association of Ireland in the coming period,” said the FAI.