THE finals of the men’s Under-19 European football tournament due to have been held this month at venues including Ballymena Showgrounds but which were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic have been rescheduled for this autumn, a report prepared for councillors says.
A report to be tabled at this Monday’s meeting of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council – who own the Showgrounds – says the Council has been informed the tournament is now due to be held this ‘October/November’.
The report says: ‘This is a great opportunity for Ballymena Showgrounds and will be managed to ensure it does not conflict with any other fixtures. The tournament fixtures can also be facilitated within the Showgrounds calendar and within existing Council staffing.
‘The IFA (Irish Football Association) are impressed with the Ballymena Showgrounds and have confirmed now that Council have been successful in securing them, that Ballymena Showgrounds is one of their preferred stadia. On that basis they are now going to use Ballymena Stadium for applications for other European tournaments.’
The report adds: ‘In addition the IFA have sought Council support to submit further funding applications for future tournaments in 2023 and 2024 eg UEFA Youth Tournament, Men’s Under19, Men’s Under-17, Women’s Under-19 and Women’s Under-17’.
The report continues: ‘The opportunity to hold European tournaments of this prestige at Ballymena Shogrounds brings positive PR (public relations) and identifies Mid & East Antrim Borough Council and Ballymena Showgrounds as a premier Council and location for events’.
The report recommends that the Council notes the revised dates and also gives approval for the IFA to include the Showgrounds as one of their preferred stadia in any future European funding bids.
The tournament is set to feature eight teams including Northern Ireland and as well as Ballymena, venues initially included Windsor Park in Belfast, Lurgan and Portadown.
The initial plan was to stage twelve group games in the four venues.
It is understood the original plan was to have the semi-finals and final at Windsor Park. The tournament was initially set to run in the latter part of July.