Grassroots football facilities across Northern Ireland will benefit from an initial £700,000 of UK Government funding for improvements, as part of a major commitment to levelling up access to physical activity across the nation.
Twenty-six projects across Northern Ireland will receive funding to improve pitches, changing rooms and pavilions, so that more local communities can access high-quality facilities.
Projects have been chosen for their ability to deliver improved facilities in deprived areas, support multi-sport use and increase participation among currently under-represented groups, including women, girls and disabled players.
- - BallyveaFC in Kilkeel, who will receive £30,000 towards converting a gravel area into a 3G pitch that the whole community, in this rurally isolated area of the Mournes, can benefit from.
- - Mountjoy United FC, who will use £25,000 to upgrade the grass pitch, install goal posts and improve the changing rooms so that this facility can serve its local people.
A full list of funded projects are available to download below.
The funding, combined with contributions from clubs and other local partners, will improve the quality of community facilities, bring people together to enjoy playing sport in their local area, regenerate communities and enhance social cohesion.
It forms part of a £25 million UK-wide investment in grassroots facilities during this financial year, out of a total of £230 million set to be invested to help to build or upgrade up to 8,000 quality pitches across the UK over the next four years. The funding will also support the construction or refurbishment of clubhouses, changing facilities and community buildings.
The Irish Football Association is delivering the programme on behalf of the UK Government in Northern Ireland.
'Grassroots football is flourishing in Northern Ireland. This investment will further help us promote, foster and develop football for all right across the country, increasing participation and getting more people from all ages and backgrounds involved'
UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “We are committed to improving access to high quality sports facilities for the underprivileged and underrepresented in Northern Ireland.
“From improved disabled access to football in Fivemiletown, Newtownstewart and Millisle, to 3G artificial grass pitch improvements at Ballyvea and floodlights in Rathfriland and Crumlin, this investment will ensure more people can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of sport at top class facilities in their local community.”
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis commented: "This UK government funding will provide a fantastic boost to sports facilities right across Northern Ireland, improving accessibility and encouraging participation.
"These improvements will help to improve local people's quality of life, bringing communities together while supporting their health and wellbeing."
Irish FA Chief Executive, Patrick Nelson (pictured below), said: “Grassroots football is flourishing in Northern Ireland. This investment will further help us promote, foster and develop football for all right across the country, increasing participation and getting more people from all ages and backgrounds involved.”
Today’s announcement follows a joint ‘Expression of Interest’ submitted to UEFA by the Football Associations of England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales on Wednesday (23 March).
The Governments of the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Wales have confirmed their support for the EOI submission and, given the Northern Ireland Executive is currently not meeting formally, officials there continue to observe the process closely.
Formal discussions on the technical specifications for the tournament are expected to take place with European football’s governing body over the coming weeks, before a final decision is made on submitting a formal bid.
On the prospects of hosting UEFA EURO 2028, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston added: “This is welcome news from the FAs, and the Government remains committed to working closely with them and our partners in the Government of Ireland and the Devolved Administrations to bring UEFA’s flagship festival of international football to the UK and Ireland.
“Our unprecedented partnership creates the potential for the best EUROs ever, and we are passionate about bringing another world-leading sporting event here, creating a real celebration of football for people across the UK and Ireland.”