Irish FA Chief Executive Officer Patrick Nelson has made the following statement in light of recent comments related to the sub-regional funding programme.
“Football in Northern Ireland needs investment. It is a game that unites communities, raises aspirations, improves people’s physical and mental health, not to mention generating employment and income which is crucial to people’s lives. We see this every day through the different programmes of work we deliver and our Social Return on Investment (SROI) results, released last year with UEFA, confirmed we add around a half a billion pounds to the Northern Ireland economy.
“The sub-regional funding was a commitment by the NI Executive made 11 years ago. It was then reaffirmed in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document in 2020, where the NI Executive stated it would advance with plans to complete both the regional and sub-regional stadia programmes, including Casement Park. And, whilst we note the Minister for Communities comments, it is only the Executive that can unwind on this commitment and cancel this funding unilaterally.
“We have been part of a structured group including officials from the Department for Communities, the Strategic Investment Board, Sport NI, the Chief Leisure Officers Association (CLOA) and NIFL for two years. This group was geared to progressing the implementation of the sub-regional investment programme and the group met as late as last week. We have previously expressed our concern to senior department officials on the lack of engagement from the Minister on reviewing the outputs from this group.
“We are fully supportive of the Casement Park project and will support all efforts in making this happen. It is a project the GAA community has waited too long for and that it fully deserves. We note with interest the Finance Minister’s comments and, given that both sub regional and Casement Park are part of the same Executive commitment, we expect that his confirmation of funding extends to the sub regional programme too.
“Given the 11-year delay on fulfilling these commitments, we expect that any additional resourcing requirements needed will be made available for both projects.”