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Final whistle blows on golden era

 
Created on 31/01/2011 @ 14:50
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It is safe to say that nearly every footballer aged under 40 and living in Montgomeryshire has memories of an ‘Ian Rush Tournament’.
 
For 26 years, the Wales International Soccer Tournament has been held at Aberystwyth and in that time, hundreds of local youngsters have rubbed shoulders with the likes of Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Andriy Shevchenko as the event became established as one of the world’s finest.
 
But not any more after the current owners announced that it will be switched to Cardiff, blaming economic hardships and the ability to attract better sponsorship in the Welsh capital.
 
“I feel sad that the tournament is not running this year, as we had some great times in Aberystwyth,” said Hugh Payne who played in the event in 1985 and later worked for the tournament during the 1990’s and early part of the new Millennium. “It grew from a rural development project to a truly world-renowned football tournament that helped to put Mid Wales on the sporting map.”
 
The original tournament was set up as a social development project for the young players of Mid Wales by the Newtown based Mid Wales Development Board for Rural Wales and used Ian Rush’s name when he was at the height of his career with Liverpool and Juventus. It was originally managed by Guilsfield-based ‘Event Company’ run by Dr Iain Skewis and Colin Mitchell but is now run by Team Tours Direct.
 
Mr Payne added: “The original Ian Rush/Wales International Soccer Tournament ran for 22 years. In that period we hosted teams from 56 countries, many from poor economic areas of the world, but with a rich football background. The organisers of the original ‘Ian Rush’ were fully aware of the economic challenges and rural location facing the tournament every year. Firstly getting them to Aberystwyth is a hard sell in itself, the tournament turned into the largest single annual youth sporting event in Wales. At the height we were the largest single week client of The University of Wales, it took every available room.
 
“Every year we faced the same rural economic problems and sponsorship issues but for over 22 + years it worked.”
 
Waterloo Rovers have sent teams to the ‘Ian Rush’ for the past 10 years and manager Dave Proctor said they will be discussing internally whether they can afford the new Cardiff option.
 
“It has been a great tournament for the local players,” he said: “Abersywtyth gave you the option of either staying up or travelling each day so the costs were low. It was a fantastic experience for the local players to play against others from all over the world but, in fairness, I believe the tournament’s quality has gone downhill over the last two years. It is a shame that it’s moving.”
 
Team Tours Direct Managing Director Terry O'Neill told the BBC: “Aberystwyth is a really wonderful place, but it's hard to attract major sponsors because of the capacity of the area - it doesn't have the population.
 

“Cardiff is far more attractive area for sponsors and we've already had interest from a major drinks sponsor.”

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