The impact of Covid will be around for a while to come and the latest sting in its tail is the cancellation of the Unite the Union Champions Cup 2021.
The FAI, IFA and Unite the Union had planned to host an expanded four-team version of the Unite the union Champions Cup featuring two teams from the League of Ireland and two from the Irish League but the after-effects of the pandemic have led to this cancellation after the postponement of the 2021 semi-final fixtures late last year.
Suitable dates in the diary could not be found for the rescheduling of the matches, though cross-border initiatives to celebrate diversity, promote equality and build community will continue, however.
Unite the union is providing funding of £50,000 which goes directly into communities and schools in the catchment areas of the teams involved. Talks will now commence on the future of the competition itself and other initiatives.
This includes initiatives with Linfield and Colerain in Northern Ireland and with Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and St Patrick’s Athletic in the Republic.
“Whilst we are disappointed that the tournament couldn’t be concluded, we do acknowledge the pressures on clubs, players and staff coupled with the split seasons and the difficulties this brings when trying to organise a competition of this nature,” said Unite the union deputy Regional Secretary Davy Thompson.
“Covid is something that no one could have envisaged as we entered into this project and has played a significant part in this outcome. We will continue to work closely with both associations and the clubs to advance our community activities which were at the core of this competition.”
A no ties foodbank was established and formal collections for food banks on match days have taken place involving Unite Community members in partnership with the leading teams.
Players from both Linfield and Coleraine are visiting schools in deprived areas as part of a Unite-sponsored computer skills education programme.
“The work between ourselves and the clubs is having a real impact – they will continue and we hope to expand them in the coming period,” added Albert Hewitt of Unite.
“We have engaged with Dundalk FC, Shamrock Rovers and St Patricks Athletic sponsoring football gear and training for young football players at Mosney Direct Provision Centre; sponsoring the Sport Against Racism football team Hijabs & Hat tricks and providing wheelchairs for the Irish Wheelchair Association basketball team in Dundalk,” said Rhona McCord of work taking place south of the border.
“We also worked with clubs to launch a STEM education resource for schools in Tallaght, Clondalkin, Ballyfermot and Inchicore.”
“On behalf of the FAI and our League of Ireland clubs, I want to thank Unite the union and my colleagues at the IFA for their ongoing support and consideration in reaching this decision,” said League of Ireland Director Mark Scanlon.
“The commitment of Unite the union to football and their incredible work in the community with our clubs has been inspirational and we thank them for that. We will now work with all stakeholders on the off-the-field initiatives that have already proven so popular.”
“We will continue to work with our partners on this and other ventures that place an important value on the community as central to our game,” added Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood.
Sport for Business Perspective
The loss of the tournament is a blow but carrying on with the social initiatives around it is a great credit to all concerned, and arguably of far greater importance in the long run.
Hopefully times will be found to continue the competition in future years or to find an alternative hook upon which to attach the partnership.
Sport for Business Partners