‘Dangerous precedent’ to give sports clubs facilities

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A Newtownabbey councillor has warned that a “dangerous precedent” has been set after funding was approved for a sports pitch in Rathcoole.

At Monday night’s council meeting £43,000 funding was approved to upgrade a second pitch in the Diamond in Rathcoole to intermediate standard to allow Rathcoole FC, which was formed last year, to join the Ballymena Intermediate League.

The club requested the council fund the work to allow for fencing, gates and dugouts to be installed to bring the pitch up to the necessary standard for the team to enter the league.

Council officers said the investment would help to address a shortage of sports pitches in the borough as highlighted by a consultancy firm recently.

The officials also advised that the council “expedite” the club’s request given the start of the new football season in August.

However, before the recommendation was passed Mayor, Fraser Agnew advised councillors to “hold back” on making a decision.

He said: “This could be dangerous and get messy as there are other clubs, such as Ballyclare Colts which have been asking for facilities over the years and Carnmoney Football Development Centre which is in a similar situation.”

He continued: “I am very sympathetic to this request and it is nothing to do with Rathcoole FC, but on the council providing facilities.

“We should look at holding this back and looking into the possibility of having our local teams sharing the pitches.

“If this goes ahead, then there could be interesting times and we could find ourselves in a difficult situation.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry O’Reilly added: “There is a need for more teams to get on board, but they need to come to us.

“This facility will not just be for the one team to use, but for others and the council officers are doing what they think is best.”

Alderman Paul Girvan added: “There is a need for this upgrade to the existing facility and I appreciate the points being made.

“But this is a small investment for a shared facility and it may be necessary to engage with other teams.”

Lyn Frazer argued the decision would set a “dangerous precedent” and said: “This has come to us in a very ad hoc way.

“It has always been the case that it is not the responsibility of the council to provide facilities to sports clubs.

“This looks like we are doing just that for one particular club.”

She added: “We need to look at this across the board. If we say yes to this club, then it will be difficult for us to say no when another clubs asks for something the same - it’s setting a dangerous precedent.”

However, councillor Mark Cosgrove said the work would represent “value for money”.

The request was approved with the recommendation other clubs in need of facilities are “brought on board” to examine their needs.