Trophee des Nations In Doubt For 2008

Grand Prix promoters£1.2m in debt.

The Northern Ireland Assembly (Local Parliament) funded body which brought many high-profile events and concerts to Ulster is understood to be £1.2m in debt.

Public representatives in Northern Ireland are to debate the future of The North of Ireland Events Company at Storment, Belfast (government buildings) on Thursday.

The company which has promoted the Northern Ireland Motocross grand Prix for the last two years and has also been involved in attracting acts like Sir Elton John and Pavarotti to Ulster.

The company's board and the Assembley’s Culture Department are investigating how it got into so much debt and whether it can avoid being declared bankrupt.

Funding for the company has been cut in recent years, and the debt thought to be £1.2m amounts to half its annual budget. It is not know if the neighbouring Government of the Irish Republic has donated money towards the funding of the company as part of the Good Friday peace agreement. It is understood that a number of questions will be asked in the Dail (Republic of Irealand's Parliament) to determine this.

Northern Ireland local representative John O'Dowd, who chairs the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, argues that the company has demonstrated poor financial management and should be wound-up immediately.

Earlier this year the company was critsied for the construction of a new motocross course on a greenfield site at Moneyglass.

The course which hosted this year’s Grand Prix of Northern Ireland and the Motocross des Nations next year.

"We are trying to take the sport to a new level and there is nowhere else in Northern Ireland where we can do that.

"We have 350 acres here and we expect 50,000 people at this event next year so it's worth it," said a spokesman.

"It is a massive event of great prestige which will attract a huge number of spectators," added Peter Thompson.

The Northern Ireland round of the world championship has been held at Desertmartin for the past two years and Cookstown club spokesman Alan Longman expressed surprise at the move.

"We have a purpose-built track just down the road at Desertmartin and we have held two world rounds at a cost of £200,000," said Longman.

"I am asking and our club is asking if this vast expenditure is a good use of public money when Desertmartin is recognised as one of the best tracks in the world."

A massive program of work was due to be carried out on the circuit. After criticism by spectators at this year’s Grand Prix where viewing facilities were deemed to be the poorest of any Motocross Grand Prix in 2008.

The circuit was due to be inspected by the world governing body of motorcycle sport the FIM in May 2008. So as to approve the circuit for the biggest event of the Motocross Grand Prix calendar the Trophee Des Nations.

Motocross fans in Ireland could not belive it when they were allotted two Grand Prix's for the 2008 Grand Prix calendar. Are now very uncertain as to wheater they will have any home Grand Prix's to attend in 2008.

So far the promoters of the second Grand Prix due to be held near Dublin in next year have so far failed to reach agreement with Youthstream the promoters of the 2008 FIM World Motocross Grand Prix series.

Main photo above: MX2 World Champion Toni Carolli (DeCarli Yamaha) winning the 2007 MX 2 Grand Prix at Moneyglass in August '07. Top right photo Rui Goncalves KTM competing in the MX2 Grand Prix at Moneyglass in August '07

Story and Photos: Pat Dunne

Posted: Wednesday, 21 November 2007