Full explanation needed on Ferns C.O.E. completion

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column

Wexford's G.A.A. stance on the completion of the Ferns Centre of Excellence clubhouse, or lack of it, is becoming more confusing given the contradictory statements coming from the top table.

The recent statements relating to the Ferns Centre of Excellence completion is fuelling a restlessness among clubs, particularly given their contradictory nature which makes it impossible to follow the line of arguments with many describing it as 'shocking' that the county management committee is not on the same wavelengths when it comes to explaining the up-to-date position.

When you talk about the Ferns Centre of Excellence you talk about a project on which more than €5m has already been spent, including the purchase, sale and re-purchase of lands, the development of four quality pitches, two with state of the art floodlight facilities, along with a clubhouse with topclass dressing room facilities.

What one is now talking about is the completion of the second floor of the clubhouse, for which there is also a €200,000 sports grant available, but for some mysterious reason the management committee is at odds with explanations as to why the works has not been carried out.

If you're an outsider looking in this takes some explaining.

In an interview with this columnist carried on Tuesday, August 22, Cathal Byrne, County G.A.A. Development Officer, and holder of a business degree, now studying as a trainee solicitor, explained:

'The Sports Capital Grant is still available but we need to have spent the money on completion of the works in order to draw down the monies.

'We are working on getting the money together to commence the work.

'We have been to the bank, working on bridging finance, but there are still a couple of matters to regularise.

'In all such grant allocations the Minister for Sport will look for a charge over the property.'

Byrne also said that he is adamant that no works will be carried out until the monies become available. 'We (GAA) are not in a position to have builders there when we don't have the money to pay them.

'The County Development Committee is not prepared to proceed with works with no money in the bank. We are trying to get bridging finance, but as it stands there is no money available in order to back up bridging finance.

'Without the monies being available I'm not prepared to tell lads to go in there and work and then not be able to pay them, but we hope to have it up and running as soon as possible. We have decided not to let anyone work on the clubhouse when the money is not available.'

The County Management Committee at its meeting of Monday, August 28 last were at odds with the explanation claiming:

'Recent erroneous media reporting regarding the next phase of development for the Centre of Excellence was noted and it was agreed that this matter should be definitively addressed and corrected at next County Board meeting on September 25.

'Drawdown of the sports capital grant that has been awarded to Wexford GAA has been delayed by the need to align trustees for the COE with those already in place for Innovate Wexford Park not by any financial issue.'

Worryingly is that this is once again becoming a devisive issue. Erroneous media reporting it was not, it follows an interview with the Officer in charge of the Ferns project.

To contradict what he said is unfair given the Centre of Excellence background since the purchase of lands.

Never has trustees been mentioned previously when securing GAA grants, bank loans, etc.

Earlier this year it was stated that the completion was delayed over a delay in the issuing of a fire certificate.

Contrasting views from the top table but there is a need to dissect the issue and come up with a full explanation rather than a piecemeal response.

Cathal Byrne has broken the silence. Now a beleaguered County Management Committee need to come out with a full and factual explanation to restore confidence.

Now it's over to the clubs of Wexford to seek a full and detailed explanation.

Wexford People

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