£36m football grounds investment could 'revolutionise the sport' in the region
A £36 million investment in football grounds across Northern Ireland has the potential to revolutionise the sport in the region, the Irish FA has claimed.
IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson made the prediction after a funding commitment made by the Stormont Executive four years ago moved a step closer to fruition.
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has announced a public consultation for the plans, which include a £10 million revamp of Glentoran's Oval ground in east Belfast and significant investment in other stadia across the region.
It also envisages a new National Training Centre and funding for intermediate and junior football clubs.
Mr Nelson said: "We welcome the announcement by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister that there will be a public consultation into the sub-regional stadium programme for football.
"With £36 million of investment available, this programme has the potential to revolutionise football in Northern Ireland and is a further landmark commitment to the sport following the Executive's funding of the new National Football Stadium at Windsor Park."
Announcing the 12-week consultation exercise in the Assembly, Ms Ni Chuilin said:
"This is a good day for football in the north. The last decade or so has witnessed a marked improvement in the enhancement of stadia following years of historic underinvestment and it is important that a broad range of clubs have the opportunity to benefit.
"I'm aware that football clubs have waited patiently for this day and I ask them and the wider public to have their say. I want this consultation to be meaningful and inclusive as the responses I receive will help formulate thinking and shape the criteria ahead of the commencement of the application process next year."