October 17th: The Unite the union Cross-border Champions’ Cup was launched at Windsor Park, home of Northern Ireland football, today.
One third of the funding for the Champions’ cup is ring-fenced for local and sporting organisations and initiatives.
Speaking for his union at the launch, Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock thanked the union’s General Secretary Len McCluskey for his strong support for the initiative and expressed his hopes that as well as two exciting sporting fixtures, the Champions’ cup would encourage link ups between the union and local community and voluntary groups through the medium of sport.
“Everyone in Unite is excited with the prospect of the Champions Cup. Football is something that is in the veins of working class people, of their communities; it cuts across divides and brings people together.
“This is a unique initiative – not simply because it brings together the Champions on a cross-border basis but because it includes a huge community investment by Unite – one quarter of the total funding for this initiative will go to community and voluntary groups at the frontline of delivering much needed services in the respective catchments of the clubs. We are looking forward to developing those connections.
“I am also particularly proud that football hero, Pat Jennings, has agreed to become the ambassador for the Champions Cup and endorse this initiative with his name.
“There is much that threatens to divide people and communities these days – in Ireland especially with concerns over Brexit. But Unite is seeking to swim against the stream. We want to see what can be done to bring people together. We don’t ask and indeed we don’t want people to leave behind their traditions and histories – we want to accept that but bring people together nonetheless. We must learn to live together and we like to think as a union that brings people together from Britain and Ireland, from the Republic and Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, Women and Men, Young and Old, those employed in the public and private sectors – as a general workers’ union – we have a big role to play in overcoming the divisions of the past. This cup initiative is part of that and it should threaten no one’s identity.
“So let’s come together to celebrate the difference but also to enjoy what we share. I’m looking forward to the two matches – they are sure to be cracking games and at root that what’s this is really about – the football”, Mr Pollock concluded.
FAI Competitions Director Fran Gavin welcomed the initiative.
“We’re thoroughly looking forward to the Unite the Union Champions Cup. The return of a cross-border competition is a huge boost for the domestic calendar in Ireland.
“It has been fantastic to work with the sponsors, Unite the Union, on their community initiatives and it should be an intriguing final between Dundalk and Linfield, across the two legs,” said Mr Gavin.
Irish FA President David Martin said: “It’s great to be working with Unite and our friends and neighbours in the FAI on this very worthwhile initiative. The Champions’ Cup is a welcome addition to the football calendar and I’m sure this year’s finalists will be looking forward to what should be two exciting matches.”