A MAJORITY of councillors have swung in behind a proposal to spend £450,000 backing a golf tournament over the next three years despite some local representatives believing the popularity of the event may be entering the rough.
At a behind-closed-doors discussion of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council – some details of which have now emerged after minutes of the meeting were made public his week – a majority of councillors proposed backing the ISPS Handa golf tournament with annual sponsorship of £150,000 up to 2022.
The event’s venues this year included Galgorm and Massereene in Antrim. It was formerly known as the Northern Ireland Open.
Most councillors felt the area received an economic and publicity boost from having the tournament in the district but some were not so sure and a proposal to slash funding to £75,000 failed after a vote.
A previous Council minute had made reference to a “poor” attendance at this year’s event.
At a subsequent meeting, during discussion of evaluation of the ISPS Handa 2019 event and a request for funding for 2020, the Council Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy, spoke about an economic appraisal which was carried out.
She was ‘pleased with the outcomes, including spend within the economy,’ according to the minutes.
She raised the potential of ‘elevating the status’ of the event as well as extending the event throughout the Borough as the Council had previously agreed to support the event for three years.
Alderman Audrey Wales requested that Ms Donaghy liaise with the council’s tourism department to prepare an offer with accommodation providers and a ticket for the event.
Cllr Brian Collins felt that the event was ‘not good value for money’ and proposed that the event receive £75,000 funding subject to a year on year assessment.
Cllr Timothy Gaston agreed and seconded the proposal.
Cllr Peter Johnston had attended the event and felt had brought ‘good exposure’ to the Borough and requested a recorded vote.
Cllr Collins £75,000 funding proposal was lost in a vote.
A proposal by Alderman Paul Reid, seconded by Cllr Wales, was passed that the Council:
* notes the ‘positive contribution of this international event to the Borough and Northern Ireland’;
* notes the agreement to use Cairndhu Golf Club for the pre-qualifying tournament for the 2020 ISPA Handa from 2020;
* ‘Agrees to continue to be the principal sponsor of the ISPS Handa from 2020-2022 at £150,000 per annum subject to this being matched by Tourism NI.
* and that the Council works with the European Tour and Galgorm to prepare an application over the next few years for the Solheim Cup.