KELLS is now eligible to be included in one of the top youth football tournaments in the world – the StatSports SupercupNI.
Games could also be held in the Larne and Carrickfergus areas for the first time.
The Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston, told a meeting of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council in Ballymena on Monday night international events such as the SupercupNI were a “key driver” for tourism.
He said the tournament will also form a “huge part” of the borough’s economic recovery plan following the pandemic.
Mayor Johnston said he was delighted to hear of the details of next year’s tournament which is due to be held between July 25-July 31.
He said Mid & East Antrim had a “proud history” of involvement in the tournament.
The Mayor said he was delighted there are now two additional sections – a youth section and a women’s section – which would increase the number of games from 64 to 80.
The Mayor said recent investment at Kells meant it could now take part.
The Council has agreed to sponsor the tournament up to £75,000.
Councillor Keith Turner (Ulster Unionist) said the tournament “brings great kudos” to the borough and he said it showcased the area “in the best possible light”.
A report prepared for councillors showed the overall SupercupNI – which is also held in areas including the Causeway Coast & Glens district – attracted over 50,000 visitors, 2,500 participants and generated 29,000 bed nights.
The report said: ‘In 2019 the event delivered £4.4million to the local NI economy and created positive promotion of NI with a media value of £10.2 million.
‘Within Mid and East Antrim it is estimated that the benefits are over £1 million to the Borough’s local economy and £200,000 of brand exposure, rising significantly when digital media across all markets is included.’
The report said matches are currently held at Ballymena Showgrounds, Broughshane, Clough and Ahoghill.
The report said the improvement work at Kells means it is now eligible to be included as a venue.