Finn Harps held their AGM on Sunday last in Ballybofey and the current board of the club were re-elected, with the addition of Paul McLoone.
Paul McLoone is the former Chief Executive of North West Tourism and previous to that he was General Manager of Sligo University Hospital. He was a leading figure in bringing the World Rally Championships to the North West in 2007 and 2009 and was the author of the 5-year Tourism Strategy for the Region 2007-2012. He is a life-long Harps supporter and was player of the year for the Harp’s Dublin supporter’s team in their inaugural year in the Leinster junior league in 1975. He has joined the Board with the specific brief of coordinating the work of all the partners involved in order to bring the new stadium project to a successful conclusion. He will also assist in the Finn Harp’s strategic plan 2017-2022.
“I have always loved the club and I am delighted to be involved. There has been great progress made in recent years and I hope to use my experience to add to that. The stadium project is critical for the club and I am very confident that with a professional approach we can bring it to a successful conclusion. There are some great people involved here and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Speaking at the AGM, Paul McLoone stated that he had attended the fan forum in February, where commercial director Aidan Campbell had said that the stadium project simply had to be got moving in 2017. Campbell had noted that while the club had made great progress on many fronts, the stadium issue represented a “glass ceiling” that was holding us back. McLoone said he decided that with his background in project management he would get involved to help out, noting that the project had been a victim of the demise of the Celtic Tiger. He confirmed that the existing structure at the new ground had been checked and was still fit for purpose and that the club had met with officials from the Sports Capital Scheme in February and that this had been positive. The project is currently back with the design team with the overall plan being completion of the west stand and admin block, a seated stand opposite and terracing at either end giving an approximate capacity of 5,500 overall. The architect and quantity surveyor are currently finalising the submission to the county council which will happen in the next few weeks. Discussions are ongoing with the council with respect to planning and whether a new submission will be required but no major issue is envisaged here. Meetings have taken place with the FAI and the county council and all are backing the project. In roughly 7 weeks the project will be relaunched, with an opportunity for supporters to view the plans and provide feedback. McLoone was keen to emphasise that while the project should be cost neutral for the club, there was a great deal of work to be done and that help from supporters would be vital in getting it completed. The completion date would be during the 2019 season or else for the start of the 2020 campaign. McLoone expressed confidence in the project saying it is “distinctly doable” and promised to be as open and transparent as possible throughout the process. He stated that the launch would only be scheduled once funding was committed to and stated “there will be no false dawn” this time. He added that any fundraising undertaken for the project would be for a specific purpose, perhaps in order to add some facility that would not otherwise be covered by the projects funding.