THE FAI has been criticised for not supporting Limerick FC in its bid to return soccer to its spiritual home in the Markets Field.
Soccer is the most played sport in Limerick city, a meeting of the Sport and Culture SPC has been told, and the sports' parent organisation has not provided the necessary investment to ensure soccer thrives.
"Sport is a tool that can achieve so much socially and economically," acknowledged Director of Service, Pat Dowling.
"It does require the parent organisation to step up," he said, highlighting the leadership shown by the GAA and IRFU in spearheading the redevelopment of Thomond Park and the Gaelic Grounds in recent years.
Mr Dowling was responding to a presentation made by Limerick FC CEO Pat O'Sullivan to the SPC who encouraged "the political masters of this town to open doors" on behalf of the soccer club.
Mr O'Sullivan entered an official bid for the Markets Field as part of the public tender process announced by the Irish Greyhound Board after they relocated their headquarters to the new stadium at Green Park. The offer for the 5.35 acre site in Garryowen was not accepted by the Irish Greyhound Board and it remains on the market.
The Ballylanders native, however, remains "confident" that Limerick FC will be back at the historic Limerick landmark which he would like to see transformed into a municipal venue for a variety of sports.
"This town is too small for a facility for every sport," Mr O'Sullivan told members of the SPC at City Hall. "I see the Markets Field as not just the home of Limerick senior soccer club, I also see it as a neutral venue which should be used as a vehicle to take young people out of black spots and integrate them through sport."
He said "demand, vision and leadership from the parent body" is required if Limerick FC is to play at the Markets Field. "We have demand and vision, but we need commitment from Government and the FAI if soccer is to thrive in Limerick," he said.
Chairman of the Sport and Culture SPC, Cllr Michael Hourigan, told Mr O'Sullivan that "the people in this chamber will support Limerick FC in trying to secure the Markets Field".
Members of the SPC were inspired by Mr O'Sullivan's personal story as to how he came to own Limerick FC and his passion for the club. He told the meeting that he has a different outlook on life following a health scare and when he heard that the club was in financial trouble, he wanted to save it.
"The city has been kicked so many times, and I said this is another kick."
The best football players come from disadvantaged areas of Limerick, according to Mr O'Sullivan who believes that soccer could be used as a tool to help young people and bring "something positive to the city".