Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Football investment fund set to be delivered within the next two years

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A long-awaited football investment fund is set to be delivered within the next two years.

The £36.2 million Northern Ireland Football Fund, formerly known as the sub regional stadia programme, will deliver a National Training Centre as well as funding for clubs.

It comes more than a decade after the fund was first mooted in 2011.

The club investment strand of the fund is to open for applications in this financial year, with the awards expected to be spent in the 2025/26 financial year.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons confirmed the release of the funding to football clubs from across Northern Ireland at the National Stadium Windsor Park on Wednesday afternoon.

He described the £36.2 million as an “initial budget”, adding he regards this as a long-term programme with further funding needed in future years.

He said his department has costed need for football facilities at £200 million, adding he will continue to make the case for additional funding.

Mr Lyons termed the fund as a “once in a lifetime opportunity to transform the game locally”.

“For players at performance and grassroots level I want to see better facilities. I want to see improved accessibility for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, both as participants and supporters,” he said.

“I want fans now, and in the future, to have the best experience at their local club. And looking forward, I want to foster our footballing stars of the future with the creation of a National Training Centre.

“I am committed to fully utilising the £36.2 million and to seeking to sustain the fund with further investment from the Executive, from within the football sector and from across local government.”

Mr Lyons said he expects the first projects to receive letters of offer from his department within this financial year, and to start spending their award in the 2025/ 2026 financial year.

He said this will begin a rolling programme of awards and project delivery.

“Work is progressing at pace on a National Training Centre for Football to host elite training for our national men’s, women’s and youth teams and to drive skills for people involved at all levels of the game. I will be saying more on this in coming weeks,” he said.

“Over the last 100 days, I have visited clubs and community football facilities across Northern Ireland. I recognise the passion and benefits this sport brings to so many people.

“I know the long delay has been a source of frustration for clubs and local communities.

“I am committed to delivering long-term investment in football and I am determined to secure additional funding in future years to make this happen. I look forward to continuing to work with clubs, the Irish FA and the Northern Ireland Football League to ensure clubs are accessible with high quality facilities, welcoming to all and that we secure a sustainable footballing future for the generations to come.”

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