Phone masts for floodlights deal


US-BASED telecoms equipment company Shared Access is preparing to increase its investment in a novel floodlighting scheme for Irish schoolboy and junior football clubs by 50 per cent to €36 million.

Shared Access had expected to spend €24 million on providing floodlights to about 200 clubs around the country. But a flood of applications in recent weeks has resulted in it agreeing to provide the lights to 310 clubs, covering each county in the Republic.

The additional funding is being provided by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, who are backers of Shared Access.

The company has agreed to pay for and erect floodlights for the football clubs in return for being able to place phone masts on the pylons that it will then rent to mobile phone companies.

The company, which operates in the US, Britain and Ireland, will also pay an annual rental fee to clubs to help meet the ongoing costs of operating the floodlights.

This scheme, which will be formally launched in September, will result in fibre broadband becoming available in parts of rural Ireland not served by high-speed internet services.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan and Minister for Sports Mary Hanafin have supported and encouraged this scheme.

This investment will help the FAI to plug a gap in funding created by a shortfall in grant aid from the exchequer.

It will enable clubs to train and play under lights in the dark winter months and offers the possibility of renting their facilities to other groups all year round.

Up to 700 football clubs in Ireland could potentially apply for the funding and it is understood that Shared Access is prepared to provide funding to more clubs in the future.

Aisling Annacotty FC, in Co Limerick, last month became the first club to have planning permission approved for the scheme.

Clubs are able to apply for funding of up to €120,000 for lighting, telecom, power and fibre connections.

Shared Access is prepared to provide funding for pitches or dressing rooms for clubs that already had floodlights.

It already manages a network of masts and equipment at 220 Garda stations under a contract with the Office of Public Works. These are leased to O2, Vodafone, 3 and Meteor.