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Saturday 27 Jan 2024
Grassroots projects to receive nearly £6m in funding

The UK Government and the Irish FA have kicked off the year by announcing 17 projects across Northern Ireland are benefitting from a share of a £5.66 million fund aimed at boosting grassroots sports facilities.

All of the projects will receive funding for state of the art 3G artificial grass pitches, with 12 of them also allocated money to install new floodlights.

Work is already under way on 14 of the schemes, with the other three set to begin shortly. The facilities will be predominantly used for football, although in most cases they will also be used for other sports and by schools.

The projects being announced today will benefit from £5.66 million from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Grassroots Facilities Investment Fund administered by the Irish Football Association; £2m of this funding has been allocated for the 2023-24 financial year with the balance of £3.66 million to be spent in the 2024-25 financial year.

Since 2021 the UK Government has used over £1.3 million of funding to deliver 54 projects across Northern Ireland, with at least 50 per cent of investment spent in the most deprived and inactive areas.

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: “Good grassroots football facilities means a better experience for everyone participating in the game, at whatever level they're at.

"This funding will provide 11 new artificial grass pitches and upgrade six existing pitches across Northern Ireland.

"It aligns with our commitment to support new and improved facilities. With the hosting of UEFA Euro 2028 in the UK and Ireland, it is crucial that the grassroots game across the nation benefits from investment, too."

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris welcomed the funding boost.

He said: “Communities across Northern Ireland will have more spaces to come together, get fit and have fun thanks to this fantastic UK Government initiative.

“Access to high quality sports facilities boosts mental and physical health, and this funding is sure to have a significant positive impact.”

UK Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said sport and physical activity is vital to everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.

He added: “Each year thousands of people make a New Year's resolution to exercise more. We know that one of the major barriers in getting active is access to high quality sports facilities, which is why we are delivering 17 new projects across Northern Ireland. 

“The UK Government and the Irish FA have already delivered over 50 projects backed by £1.3 million to give local communities the high quality facilities they need.”

Projects in Northern Ireland to benefit from the 2023-24 tranche of Irish FA/DCMS funding include:

  • Mountjoy United FC in Co Tyrone - £400,000 for a new artificial grass pitch and floodlights.
  • Kilmore Recreation FC in Downpatrick, Co Down - £400,000 for a new artificial grass pitch and floodlights.
  • Valley Rangers FC in Kilkeel, Co Down - more than £230,000 for a pitch upgrade.
  • Rathmore Grammar School in Dunmurry - £180,000 for upgrades to its pitch and floodlights.

A full list of the projects to benefit in Northern Ireland can be found here.

The Irish FA/DCMS Grassroots Facilities Investment Fund is part of a major UK Government investment in grassroots facilities UK-wide worth more than £400 million. It covers multisport pitches, tennis courts and swimming pools.

Since 2021 the UK Government has delivered new facilities or improvements at almost 2400 sites across the UK, aiming to get at least 120,000 more people active.

Image: Wellington Rec FC, based in Larne, are among the clubs to have received funding through the Grassroots Facilities Investment Fund. With Gary Morrow (left), the club's youth chairperson, are Leanne McCready, Irish FA Facilities Development Manager, Irish FA Grassroots Facilities Programme Manager Sarah Keys and and Graham Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer at the Irish FA.