The Chairman of Larne Football Club has called on the ‘full support of everyone with the best interests of the club at heart’ during what he called ‘a critical period for the club’.
In a statement on the club’s website Archie Smyth detailed the club’s long term vision after a period of uncertainty.
“The last number of months has been a period of considerable change for Larne Football Club,” he said.
“With the resignation of David McAlinden towards the end of last season, and the appointment of Tiernan Lynch, there have been significant changes to the playing staff.
“The close season has also brought significant changes off the pitch, all of which are designed to build Larne Football Club and ensure its long term prosperity as we reach the club’s 100th anniversary of playing football at Inver Park.
“During this period there have been extensive confidential negotiations regarding various areas of the club, which we could not discuss publicly until agreements had been made. Larne Football Club is now in a position to set out in detail the outcome of those negotiations and that work that has gone on behind the scenes.
“When the current board took control at Inver Park in 2009, the ground was in a sorry state.
“Since then a small band of volunteers have worked tirelessly and have given up a lot of their time and money in order that we remained in the Irish League.
“Over the years, it has been extremely difficult to secure funding to upgrade the facilities at Inver Park, with a number of funding streams unavailable to the club. Larne Football Club has endeavoured to do all it could to improve facilities and this has included the excellent contributions from our supporters.
“However, without significant investment, it was becoming harder, as a Designated Club, to meet the safety and infrastructure standards required to play in Championship or indeed the Premiership.
“Mid and East Antrim Council, as the new Landlord, commissioned a complete survey on the ground in May/June past and decided that until certain works were completed they couldn’t issue a Safety Certificate. This meant that we were unable to play Championship football until the certificate was issued. The costs of the work is in the region of £30,000 to £50,000, which is well beyond the means of Larne Football Club.
“We had various meetings over the last few months to see if we could get a resolution.
“It was decided the best way forward was to re-negotiate our lease with Mid and East Antrim Council whereby they take over the maintenance of Inver Park and we rent it from them.
“We informed the council of this on Monday 10th July and they started work on the ground on Monday 17th July. We hope to be playing at Inver Park on 12th August against Portadown in our first competitive match of the season.
“Mid and East Antrim Council have done everything they can to help us and we hope our increased co-operation with the Council will help put the club on a more solid footing moving forward.
“The plans for Larne Football Club and Inver Park are exciting but they will require support and patience to put them into action.
“The financial reality is that at present it costs approximately £2000 to £3000 per week to put a team on the pitch, with the costs of expenses, training facilities, maintaining facilities, and match officials etc.
“With the temporary closure of Inver Park, we have been unable to play any pre-season fixtures at Inver Park. This has resulted in the loss of much needed income to allow the club to function during the summer.
“So it is vital that we receive the full support of everyone with the best interests of the club at heart.
“We are grateful for the continued support of our main sponsors, Port of Larne and Forever Living Product, and to Red Strike, the University of Ulster and Larne High School.
“We would also like to acknowledge the excellent support provided by the Inver Red and Whites Supporters Club.”