independent

Monday 23 October 2017

Closure threat as Wexford Albion lose their pitch

By Maria Pepper

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A Wexford soccer club catering for 300 members is in danger of closing because the pitch which it has used for the past decade is no longer available.

Wexford Albion has sent out an appeal for land to lease or buy in order to continue operating next season while Fine Gael TD Michael D'Arcy is in negotiations with Wexford County Council on the club's behalf with a view to identifying a suitable alternative site within the town.

The soccer club has played all teenage and adult team home games on a pitch in Coolcotts since 2007, originally taking out an expired lease with the former owner but a year ago it was informed it could no longer use the six-acre site which was taken over by the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) during the property crash.

It is understood that the land was subsequently bought by the financial institution Cerberus and eventually sold on to another buyer.

An Albion spokesman said the former owner had asked the club to leave the pitch even though, as far as the club was aware, it was no longer his land.

'We have contacted our local TDs and councillors to try and find the right owner but to no avail,' he said. 'We know it's not our land but we have been using it for the past 10 years. What we don't understand is why is this coming from him if he doesn't own the land.'

Last week, according to the club spokeman, after the club began cutting grass and preparing the land for the start of the new soccer season in August, the secretary received a telephone call from the previous owner, demanding that the club withdraw from the site.

'Without this land we have nowhere to play our home games next season and sadly, the club will be in danger of folding after so many years of hard work and success,' said the spokesman.

Fine Gael TD Michael D'Arcy said he did not know the identity of the new owner and to his knowledge, the former owner is acting on behalf of the current owner.

Deputy D'Arcy said he contacted the former owner last November and 'in fairness to him', he was willing to give the club a few more weeks, and in fact, they got the whole season out of it.

Thr TD said he also approached Wexford County Council asking if it had a parcel of land that the club could play on, even on a temporary basis.

'We are in negotiations with the Council to see if a site can be found to allow the club to continue its activities,' he said.

Deputy D'Arcy said Wexford County Council is one of the few local authorities that doesn't provide pitches for sporting clubs, unlike other councils including Waterford, Wicklow and Dublin.

Wexford Albion, founded in 1973 as a schoolboys club, has a pitch in Kennedy Park that is used by younger members. The club has expanded in recent years to encompass adult players but the Kennedy Pitch is not suitable for them.

'We're not looking for anywhere for free. We are willing to lease or purchase. We want to secure our future. We have great plans in the long-term. It would have to be somewhere in the town environs,' said the club spokesman.

When contacted, the former owner of the Coolcotts land said he did not wish to comment.

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