April socer clinic
By MITCHELL DALE
ELITE Sports Program (ESP) director Michael O'Neill has responded angrily to reports he scammed young Coffs Coast soccer players out of $125, vowing to hold a replacement clinic for the one cancelled last December.
The Coffs Coast Advocate ran a story on February 5 reporting that the clinic, which cost $125 to be paid in advance, was cancelled at late notice with ESP directors unable to be contacted and seemingly disappearing with the money.
But, in a Coffs Coast Advocate exclusive, Mr O'Neill said the clinic was only postponed and 'at no stage was (families) money in jeopardy'.
He says another soccer clinic is being planned for Coffs Harbour in April.
Mr O'Neill also promised to personally apologise to families who believed they had lost their money when they could not access ESP.
"It is deeply regretted that families felt anxious with the thought they had lost their money," O'Neill said. "(But) at no stage was their money in jeopardy.
"It is unfortunate that ESP has been exposed with such negative publications . . . We endeavour to completely rectify the situation.
"A three-day intensive program is being established for the April long weekend.
"The only thing that ESP has done wrong was to not explain the situation openly or timely to the families that have paid in advance for our December 4 and 5 clinic.
"It is understandable yet disappointing that matters have progressed to such a slandering attack against ESP."
Coffs Harbour City Council claimed they closed the International Stadium, effectively cancelling the clinic, because ESP had not provided public liability insurance or a deposit.
However, Mr O'Neill maintained wet weather was one of the prime reasons for the cancellation of the clinic.
"The reason for the clinic not to progress was in fact, rain," he said.
"No payment or deposit was given to International Stadium for liability insurance as the prospect of rain was most certainly looking at forcing the clinic to be postponed.
"That is precisely what happened."
Since the Coffs Coast Advocate first broke the story, our office has been inundated with phone calls from the public, many of whom have information on Mr O'Neill.
One person even donated five Australian Soccer interactive CD-Roms for children affected by the cancellation of the clinic.