Finance Minister Conor Murphy has been urged to urgently intervene after it emerged 60% of sporting social clubs and bars had their applications for Covid relief funding rejected.
Of 467 applications for support for social clubs under the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme. 201 were approved, 244 have been rejected and 22 remain unprocessed.
The information came to light following a written Assembly question from SDLP MLA Justin McNulty.
Mr Murphy said that the department did not hold information on which sport each application came from.
Under the support scheme bars are entitled to £800 per week while they are closed. It is administered by the Department of Finance's (DoF) Land and Property Services (LPS).
Mr McNulty said traditional bars and pubs received the same support as those attached to sporting clubs in 2020, but that this had now changed.
He accused the Department of Finance of differentiating between the two and said it had pushed many sporting clubs to the brink of closure.
The Newry and Armagh MLA said the issue had arisen because "some sports clubs have two separate LPS rates accounts for their playing facilities and their social club, whereas others have all their facilities on the one LPS rate account".
He called it an "anomaly" and urged Mr Murphy to take action to rectify the issue.
Mr McNulty, an All-Ireland winning footballer with his native Armagh, said many sports clubs were facing "terrible financial hardship" as a result of their denied applications.
"Many sports clubs across the north operate a social club as part of their premises and they were closed in line with the Executive’s restrictions. These clubs are a key element to their sports club’s financial sustainability and if they don’t get help some are facing a very precarious future," he explained.
The SDLP MLA said it was "ridiculous and petty" that over half of the applications from sporting clubs had been rejected.
"It just appears to be a case of bureaucratic red tape getting out of control. We now have the ridiculous situation where one club in a town or village is getting assistance, whereas, another equally deserving club is not," Mr McNulty said.
‘All bars were issued with the same guidance and told to close as part of the Executive’s restrictions’ announcements. They were all promised support, and, in fact all received the same support in 2020.
"However, now the Finance Minister’s Department are differentiating between the bars and social clubs. This is completely unacceptable and will push many sports clubs who totally rely on the income from their social club to the brink.
"Conor Murphy must intervene urgently. These clubs are pleading for help. We know the number of properties involved and this issue can be resolved quickly. Time cannot be wasted and this needs an urgent response."
The Department of Finance has been contacted for a response.