Milk Cup finals to move to Ballymena
BALLYMENA Showgrounds will host the Northern Ireland Milk Cup finals this summer, Times Sport can reveal.
New health and safety issues are the reason for the Milk Cup Organising Committee transferring the finals of this year’s competition from Coleraine to Ballymena.
Describing the move as the “most difficult decision in the 28-year history of the international youth football tournament”, chairman Victor Leonard stressed that it will be a temporary move, adding that the showpiece finale to the event would return to Coleraine when there would be facilities available to host the three game Finals Night format.
He said: “New Health and Safety legislation is coming in which will further restrict the capacity of many venues across a wide range of sports in the Province. It will mean the capacity of Coleraine Showgrounds will be greatly reduced, falling far short of the requirement for our three finals.
“We require a location that provides spectator comfort for four hours as many of our supporters are present for all three matches. We also need to be able to accommodate six teams on finals night and although we have utilised temporary changing rooms over the past decade, we concede that these do not meet the high standards expected by representatives of some of the world’s top clubs at a major international event.
“We have had to make a decision which is largely out of our own control. With new legislation due on ground safety we simply will not be permitted to stage the Finals of our competition at the Ballycastle Road venue because the attendance figure will be reduced well below the numbers we are fortunate to attract on finals night.”
“We are grateful that Ballymena Borough Council can accommodate us at the Showgrounds until such times as there are facilities in Coleraine which permit us to bring the finals back to the area.
“Coleraine FC have helped us over the years and we will continue to stage matches at the Showgrounds throughout the event, including moving the semi-finals of the Premier competition from Ballymena back to the Coleraine-Ballymoney area,” added Victor.
It is understood that Ballymena Borough Council will maximise the standing capacity at the Showgrounds for the finals, even allowing for the ongoing work being done to the Warden Street stand.
The Milk Cup will kick off on Monday, July 26 and run until Friday, July 30.