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FAI Club Development Programme

Post  FAI on Sun Jul 04, 2010 6:58 pm

FAI agrees €24m floodlights deal with telecoms mast firm

A US-BASED telecoms equipment company is preparing to shine a light on Irish football after agreeing a unique €24 million investment deal with the FAI.

Shared Access has agreed to pay for and erect floodlights for about 200 schoolboy and junior football clubs around the State in return for being able to place telecoms masts on the pylons that it will then rent to mobile phone companies.

The company, which operates in the US, Britain and Ireland and is backed by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, will also pay an annual rental fee to clubs to help meet the ongoing costs of operating the floodlights.

This move also has the potential to bring broadband to parts of rural Ireland not served by high-speed internet services.

It will help the FAI to plug a gap in funding created by a shortfall in sports capital grant aid from the exchequer due to the recession.

It will also enable clubs to train and play under lights in the dark winter months.

Chris Jackman, chief executive of Shared Access Ireland, told The Irish Times that more than 700 football clubs in Ireland could potentially apply for the funding.

“If we could do this in the next two to three years we’d be delighted,” he said. “This could also take broadband into a number of rural areas that don’t already have it.”

Mr Jackman said Aisling Annacotty FC in Co Limerick this week became the first club to have planning permission approved for the scheme. “We’re prepared to fund up to 200 lighting schemes,” he said.

He said Shared Access is prepared to provide funding for pitches or dressing rooms for clubs that already had floodlights installed at their grounds. “We’re willing to be flexible.”

All the sites will need planning permission. This could lead to objections from locals about telecom masts being erected in their areas.

“It’s an issue but we’re ready to discuss that with them,” Mr Jackman said. “We’ve got a lot of research to present to local residents.”

Shared Access already manages a network of masts and equipment at 220 Garda stations under a contract with the Office of Public Works. These are leased to O2, Vodafone, 3 and Meteor.

Clubs will be able to apply for funding of up to €120,000 for lighting, telecom, power and fibre connections, where possible.

The FAI has written to clubs and set up a dedicated web portal to detail the commercial opportunity. It is also planning to run awareness seminars around the country.

“It’s another way for clubs to develop their infrastructure in the current difficult economic environment,” Peter Sherrard, the FAI’s director of communications, said. “This can benefit clubs all over the country.”


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