AFTER months of planning and meetings with government departments and discussions with tournament partners and funders, the Organising Committee of STATSports SupercupNI has made the decision to cancel this year’s Tournament, which was due to kick off on Sunday, July, 25.
Tournament chairman Victor Leonard said that ‘no stone had been left unturned’ in their attempts to stage the competition later this summer.
“The organising committee has been working tirelessly since last August to bounce back from the disappointment of the cancellation of the 2020 event and return this year with a bigger and better tournament. However, ongoing issues with regards to the impact of COVID-19 across the world and logistical obstacles outside of our control there was no other option but to cancel this year’s tournament.
“Over the last number of months, we have availed of support and guidance from the Public Health Agency and the Department for Communities before Committee made this decision.
“Participating in the Tournament is more than playing five football games over a week; it gives the young aspiring footballers the unique SupercupNI experience where young players can live, train and play together for a week, being in the same accommodation, providing a taste of what a professional football career might look like.
“The tournament is an incredible experience for all of our young people and we felt that the restrictions, which needed to be put in place because of Covid, would adversely diminish the overall SupercupNI experience.”
The tournament is one of the jewels in the crown of the Northern Ireland tourism industry and in 2019 the competition delivered £4.4 million to the Northern Irish economy and Leonard said this would be another blow to the hospitality and tourism sector.
“The media value in 2019 was £10.2 million, second only to the British Open in Portrush. The hard-working Tournament social media team, led by Jim Sandford and Jason Andrews produced a campaign resulting in a media value of £8 million in July last year even though the Tournament didn’t take place; this was a massive positive promotion for Council partners and Northern Ireland.
“We certainly had considerable drive and determination to not only organise the competition but play a role in kickstarting the return to football for young people and assist the local economy. The Event teams at Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Councils had been particularly helpful.
“This is now the second year in a row that the tournament has been cancelled and all of the three council areas where our matches take place are usually a hive of activity, with hotels, bed and breakfasts and restaurants and bars all reporting high footfall throughout the week of the tournament.
“There is no doubt this will be a huge blow to the local tourism and hospitality sector.”
The Chief Executive for Hospitality Ulster, Colin Neill, has paid tribute to the event organisers and is saddened that the Tournament has had to be cancelled.
Mr Neill, commented, “The STATSports SupercupNI is an integral part of our economy and the benefits created through the number of bed-nights and associated spend by thousands of visitors will be a significant loss to the hospitality sector as we move forward in our recovery process.
“Obviously, the Competition has been a key part of the Northern Irish sporting calendar for generations but it has also been part of the hospitality calendar for that same period of time. The benefit the competition has brought to our bars, restaurants and hotels has been vitally important.”
The 2021 event would have been the largest event in the history of the competition, comprising four male age groups at 14, 15, 16 and 18 years old and a new female section which had attracted teams from England, Scotland and the USA.
Leonard said there had been worldwide interest in the 2021 event with high-profile club entries from Europe, the Far East, Africa, the Americas as well as teams from England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, committing to the tournament.
“The organising committee had secured high-profile teams across the four male age groups and there was considerable interest in the new female section which attracted a number of entries from prominent academy teams in the USA as well as big badge women’s teams from the UK.
“The games which were to be played in the Causeway Coast and Glens, the Mid and East Antrim and Antrim and Newtownabbey Council areas would have reached a worldwide audience and further enhanced the reputation of Northern Ireland as an ideal tourist destination.”
Victor Leonard concluded, “The Tournament has for almost four decades delivered on sporting, tourism and commercial targets producing economic benefits for businesses such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, fast food outlets and the supply chains related to these businesses as well as retail outlets and other organisations such as first aid and event security providers.
“It’s now vital that we receive the necessary funding and logistical support from local authorities, government bodies and sponsors to ensure that the Tournament is around for another forty years.”
Planning has already commenced for the 2022 STATSports SupercupNI Tournament which will start on Sunday 24th July with Finals being played on Friday 29th July.