STATSports SuperCupNI graduate and 1991 Manchester United winner Nicky Butt at last year’s opening parade in Coleraine with tournament chairman Victor Leonard.
Organisers of the STATSports SuperCupNI are literally doubling their efforts to ensure next year’s international youth tournament is bigger and better.
A new one-off age group will be introduced in 2021, while chairman Victor Leonard has revealed that his committee are covering all bases with two options for the event which was forced to cancel this summer’s competitions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We feel it is prudent to plan for two different options in terms of competing teams,” said Victor.
“The first is very much the one we have been delivering since the 1980s with teams from all across the world in competition in Northern Ireland.
“But with the threat of Covid-19 still with us, we are developing a template for UK and Irish based teams only should travel restrictions still be in place in a year’s time.
“It very much depends on how our world looks next year in light of the virus.”
Victor has also confirmed expansion plans: “We will have an additional section next year because so many players and coaches were really disappointed that this summer’s tournament had to be pulled and particularly in the Minor section for players born on or after 1st January, 2007.
“The difficulty was even greater for the Northern Ireland Club teams as the Minor section was the only one where some players had an opportunity to add their participation in the STATSports SuperCupNI to their playing CV.
“The Northern Ireland representation in the Junior and Premier Sections is limited to County select teams where competition for places is particularly strong.”
The organising committee has added an Under 14 section to next year’s event so that the boys who were due to play in this year’s tournament will still have the opportunity to play in he STATSports SuperCupNI before they have to challenge for a place in the County select teams in future years.
So in 2021 the Minor, Junior and Premier categories will be supplemented by a fourth tournament.
Victor also hopes to be in a position soon to confirm another aspect to the competition for next year.
“We were bitterly disappointed at being forced to cancel this summer’s competition but now we are well on our way to 2021 with a considerable amount of work continuing behind the scenes over the past few months.
“The response from local, national and overseas connections has been phenomenal,” he said. “We have been receiving correspondence from as far away as New Zealand, Japan, China plus North and South America. So many people want to with us in 2021.”
Victor has praised the ongoing financial support from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Causeway Coast and Glens B.C.
“Councillors on both bodies have been extremely supportive and we appreciate that in difficult and challenging times.
“They realise the importance of event tourism as Northern Ireland endeavours to move forward and rebuild its economy post this epidemic and the important part the event can play in helping achieve success in that direction.
“We have shared our ‘Way Forward’ plans with them and also await a response from Tourism NI whose chief executive, John McGrillen, is also in receipt of our plans.”
Victor reckons that the tournament is meeting the challenges of a new era robustly.
“We have faced so many difficulties throughout our history but always come out the other side stronger and turning negatives into positives seems to be something we are becoming adept at in so many ways.”
The 2021 STATSports SuperCupNI will run from Monday, July 26 to Friday, July 30, with the traditional parade of teams and welcome ceremony in Coleraine on Sunday, July 25.