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Thursday 23 May 2024
Irish FA President welcomes ‘positive’ funding boost

Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood has welcomed major government funding for football facilities in Northern Ireland.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons said The Northern Ireland Football Fund, formerly the Sub Regional Stadia Programme for Football, will help to modernise football facilities at every level across Northern Ireland.

The Minister launched the £36.2 million fund at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

He said: “I am pleased to give Ministerial approval to The Northern Ireland Football Fund and to unlock for the first time this Executive commitment to modernising footballing facilities at every level in communities across Northern Ireland.

“I am seizing this 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 under-represented groups, both as participants and supporters.

“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.”

Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood (pictured) said it was “positive news”.

He pointed out: “After a long wait we can finally see some progress which will help football, at all levels, across Northern Ireland.

“We have stated continuously that the £36m set aside is not enough. But it is a start and, as the game’s governing body here, this is something we welcome. We await further good news about the funding for Casement Park.

“Co-hosting UEFA Euro 2028 will see Northern Ireland be a key part of the largest major sporting event our nations have ever jointly staged and will be a catalyst for positive change in this country through the power of football.”

The Northern Ireland Football Fund will take a phased approach to delivery across three strands. A club investment strand will open for applications in this financial year and the first funding awards to grassroots clubs will also begin to be rolled out.

The Minister further said: “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.”