The Stormont minister responsible for sport has revealed that £6m is to be made available for sporting clubs and organisations around Northern Ireland, offering them much-needed financial aid as they deal with the pandemic crisis.
The news comes as Cliftonville FC chairman Gerard Lawlor claimed that the impact of Covid-19 could see the Irish Premiership potentially lose £1.5m in gate receipts due to the current restrictions on crowd numbers.
There is serious concern that if supporters are not allowed to attend Irish League games when the new season is set to kick off next month, that some clubs may go to the wall without government assistance.
It was hoped that 50% capacity attendances could be reached, but the rising infection rate means that restrictions are likely to remain in place.
During the coronavirus pandemic sports clubs across Northern Ireland have been able to avail of funding from Sport NI, with many taking advantage of various grant schemes, and it appears millions more are on the way to help.
Ulster Unionist MLA Alan Chambers asked Caral Ni Chuilin, who is standing in for Deirdre Hargey as Communities Minister, if she had any plans to offer financial support to Irish League clubs who may be forced to commence the new season playing behind closed doors, resulting in a loss of admission income.
The minister underlined that football clubs have already received £178,000 from the Sports Hardship Fund set up earlier this year, and in a general context supplied encouraging news about what is set to be available for all sports.
"The Sports Hardship Fund was put in place to support sports clubs to maintain facilities while restrictions were in place," the minister replied.
"I can advise that £178k has been paid out so far to football clubs through the fund.
"In addition, eight Irish League clubs were signposted from this fund to the Department for the Economy Covid-19 Business Support Grant Scheme and as a result were able to avail of the more substantial financial support through that scheme (up to £25,000).
"Moving forward, Sport NI is currently developing a range of proposals to help sports organisations improve resilience and increase capability and has just recently allocated £5m of National Lottery funding to take forward its 'Build Back Better' programme of investment during the next 18 months.
"Irish League clubs will have the opportunity to apply to this programme.
"In addition, £1m recently secured through the June Monitoring Round will be invested in the procurement of PPE packs to help sports clubs, including football clubs, with the costs associated with maintaining facilities and ensuring a safe return to their sport.
"My officials and Sport NI will continue to engage with the IFA and NIFL on the challenges facing local football and I will continue to seek to secure Covid related funding to provide support to the entire sports sector."
Mr Chambers said: "I submitted this question as I want to see Irish League football back up and running even if it is behind closed doors or with limited gates. It will need financial intervention.
"The return of games, even if only to read match reports or watch videos of games, will lift the spirits of the entire football family."
On Twitter Cliftonville chairman Mr Lawlor said yesterday: "Have just been looking at some of the frightening figures and the impact Covid could have on our local game next season, with current restrictions we are potentially looking at a loss of income in gate receipts alone within the NIFL Premiership of 1.5 million."
The NI Football League recently set up a task force aimed at securing funding from Stormont and the Irish FA to keep the domestic game alive.