It Starts With Us – Finn Harps outline new stadium project plans at positive open meeting

On Sunday night at the Villa Rose Hotel a public meeting took place attended by over 90 people between those present in the room and those following a live stream online.  The meeting had three main objectives-

  1. To share information on the new stadium project.
  2. To build consensus and momentum around the steps necessary to deliver it.
  3. To identify people willing to help organise, support and drive fundraiser.
Ian Harkin Addressing the meeting Copyright © Clare McCahill 2024
Ian Harkin Addressing the meeting Copyright © Clare McCahill 2024

Progress to date

Attendees were welcomed to the meeting by Chairperson Ian Harkin which was followed by a presentation by club director and Supporter Liaison Officer Aidan McNelis.  The progress to date was shared with those attending. The key points were-

  • The new stadium will now be a hybrid design to reduce costs. This means that the main stand structure currently on the new site will be completed and three modular-built stands will be added (a seated stand opposite the main stand and two covered terraces). The new design is very similar to that of Salford City’s ground which has been hailed for generating a fantastic match night atmosphere. The new project cost has been set at €7.3m.
  • There is funding of €5.8 million in place from grants. These are made up of €4.7m from the LSSIF government grant, two €0.5m grants from both the Donegal County Council and the FAI. (These two are to be paid out over 3 years and 10 years respectively. The club has secured financing from the Western Development Board to front these) There is also €126k remaining on a Sports Capital grant for design fees.
  • The grant monies must be match-funded by 30%. This leaves a gap of €1.5m between the project cost-€7.3m and the grants-€5.8m. The major challenge is the fact that this money needs to be in place up front in order to proceed with the build. Negotiations are well under way with community finance bodies to provide bridging financing options to help fund this gap.

The clubs plan to advance the project was then outlined.

First of all the club are looking to purchase the new stadium site from Donegal County Council at a projected cost in the region of €200k. By securing the site, and with around €1m of work already done on the existing main stand structure, the new stadium site can then be used as collateral to secure the bridging finance.

Significant fundraising is now necessary to cover the purchase of the land, to cover the interest costs of the financing and to reduce (or if possible) eliminate the funding gap.

When the new stadium is operational and is licensed to host League of Ireland games, ownership of the new stadium will be transferred to the Finn Park Trustees to be held in Trust in the same way as the current Finn Park has been. Once the transfer is complete, ownership of the current Finn Park can be transferred to the club and the old ground can then be sold to pay off the debt on the new stadium.

Crucially, the club has secured a Sports Body Tax exemption meaning that anyone donating €250 or more to the project (either in one transaction or cumulatively) can fill out a simple tax form alongside which will see their contribution increased by up to 45% through a tax rebate. This would turn a €250 donation into €362.

The club aim to source donors who can have their name permanently inscribed on a Patron’s Wall for a donation of €1,500 (which equates to over €2,100 with the tax exemption applied). This will be initially limited to 100 donors.

Fan survey results

Next, feedback from a survey conducted over the past few weeks was shared with the meeting.  100 people responded to the survey (35 are shareholders; 39 are season ticket holders; 33 are 500 Club members; 78 are regular match attendees; 21 support Harps from outside the area; 12 are Harps fans but not match attendees and 3 are fans of other clubs.  The key findings of the survey were-

  • 96% said that they support the club’s plan to progress the stadium project.
  • 92% supported the fundraising plan which includes the sale of Finn Park.
  • 78% supported the idea of an annual membership fee being introduced for shareholders

On membership it was explained that the club would return to this following further discussion and feedback from fans. People were invited to join a working group to ensure that this was implemented as fairly as possible and in strict compliance with ICOS requirements to which the co-op is bound.

Finn Harps’ 500 Club coordinator Trevor Gordon stepped in to present the results of a survey of 500 Club members.  It’s main findings were-

  • 5% of the respondents said they were not currently shareholders in the club and of these 65.8% said they were interested in becoming part owners of the club.
  • Asked about the proposed membership fee, 77.6% were positive.
  • 91% supported the idea of 500 Club members receiving a discount on the membership fee
  • 6% supported the idea of an enlarged 500 club supporting stadium fundraising. Most respondents favoured around half the profits going to stadium.
  • The majority of respondents indicated they would be willing both to remain in the 500 Club and pay a club membership fee.
Aidan McNelis speaking at the Villa Rose Copyright © Clare McCahill 2024
Aidan McNelis speaking at the Villa Rose Copyright © Clare McCahill 2024

Our Vision

Aidan McNelis came back in to explain the ambitious vision of the club: A thriving club that is a central pillar of the sporting, social and cultural life of the region.  A club deeply embedded in its local community and widely acknowledged as a force for good. A club with male and female first teams capable of consistently competing in the top division that the people of the region are proud to support.  A club with one of the best academies in the country.  A club with a modern, atmospheric home ground accessible to all.  A club that acknowledges its proud history but sees its best days ahead of it.

A club that represents football as it should be.

A time for urgency

The urgency of the situation was then outlined.

  • The multiple issues with Finn Park including the limitations of the site around footprint and flood barriers, most elements in the ground being near end of life or having significant issues including the stand, clubhouse, gantry and lights.
  • It was explained that the derogations Finn Park has been receiving for a significant number of years now are being entirely based on the new stadium project being realised. If there is no new stadium, senior football will cease.
  • Furthermore, building costs are rising, but the grant aid we have been allocated remains static.
  • Finally, football is on the up, our loyal and vibrant fanbase with a huge number of kids, our fantastic players and volunteers, our region and community as a whole, all deserve a proper football facility.

Fundamentally, it’s do or die if we want to stay in senior football.

The club outlined plans to keep seeking further funding opportunities, to engage business, the diaspora and the wider football family for support.  Stadium/Stand naming rights, other assets such as buy-a-brick etc will be launched when after construction recommences, but ultimately it has to start with us.  Finn Harps people and the wider community need to show the world that we will not be denied.  That we will make this happen with a broad-based movement, organic movement to fundraise and drive the project home.

We can do this, and we will do this.

Aidan Campbell outlined how the club intended to employ a project manager for the project, to put in place an independent oversight committee to oversee the funds raised and a wider group to drive and coordinate fundraising.

The presentation was followed by an extensive Q&A session.  All in the room were boosted by news that an online fan has generously pledged €10,000 to kick off the project, while others offered their support in driving the fundraising.

General donation link:

Patron donation link:

For commercial assets contact: [email protected]

For volunteering opportunities contact: [email protected]