Delayed London GAA stadium dogged by accusations of 'poor handling'

Delayed London GAA stadium dogged by accusations of  'poor handling'

By Robert Mulhern

Multi-million pound legal threats, premature PR stunts and Roy Keane’s agent.

London GAA’s dream of a purpose-built stadium is a story marked by peculiar elements and perennial delays.

In the latest twist, the Irish Government has been forced to extend the terms of a vital £500K grant to June 2016 - twelve months behind the original agreement date.

The London team pictured before the GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A against Cavan in June 2015.

This week speaking to Breakingnews.ie, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) warned that the grant was "time specific" and "had to be spent" within that period or it would be pulled.

Against passing and looming deadlines some of the city’s clubs have expressed exasperation.

And accusations of mismanagement have been leveled by Cork born former chairman Larry O’ Larry, against a County Board appealing to clubs to help raise London’s £500K share of the estimated £4.17m project.

There's a blame game over the latest delay too.

The London County Board have declined to comment but in recent weeks chairman Noel O’Sullivan has gone on the record to say the 2330 seater project had been "let down" by the Irish based Tobin Consulting Engineers.

At time of writing Tobins have yet to respond.

Croke Park told Breakingnews.ie they remain “committed” to a project launched by President Aogan O’Fearghail in April.

Delayed London GAA stadium dogged by accusations of  'poor handling'

GAA President Aogan O’Fearghail launched the project.

Then, the GAA president conducted a highly publicised ‘breaking of the ground’ in Ruislip.

But it is understood administration was incomplete and within weeks the start date was backdated 12 months.

To accommodate construction the city’s fixture calendar has been the subject of rescheduling in recent seasons.

Set against the delays, the rescheduling has frustrated clubs with some expressing real concern about the project’s side effects on domestic structures.

There has been a long history of unfulfilled stadium ambitions in London.

In 2010, then President Christy Cooney challenged the project for its lack of progress.

And London GAA’s old home at New Eltham in North London was the focus of much controversy recently when the GAA disputed a development ‘option’ they sold to a group of Irish property developers called Novalong.

With the developers threatening a £3.5m action, Roy Keane and Niall Quinn’s solicitor Michael Kennedy was drafted in to represent the GAA.

A compromise was reached out of court.

GAA Director General Padraig Duffy is one of the trustees of the 13 acre New Eltham site which is estimated to worth many tens of millions in the booming London property market, if developed.

The GAA’s share of the deal is expected to net them around £5.5m.

“There’s been great opportunities over the years,” said London GAA columnist and long time St Gabriels’ member Ambrose Gordon.

“I think this development will go ahead because at this stage it has to.

“But it seems like there’s been hesitation and poor handling down the years.

“It happened with New Eltham and not so long ago there was a deal to develop Ruislip at a fraction of the costs they are talking about now. That opportunity was never taken.

“It sounds like the cost of the project has gone up sharply and an extra couple of million would be a lot for London to find.”

One manager at a prominent club said the project “has been poorly managed and poorly executed”.

He said clubs supported the building of a stadium but felt the embrace of fundraising plans was minimal.

“I only know of one person from our club who has bought naming rights to a seat in the new stand at £125,” he said.

Three members of three separate clubs also raised concerns about poor attendances this season and existing facilities in the newly renamed Irish TV grounds.

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