Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) Chief Executive Gerard Lawlor says that the organisation intends holding discussions with all 43 of their member clubs to understand their “needs and necessities” in relation to the £36.2 million of sub regional funding set to finally be released this year.
Lawlor’s comments came after NIFL held what they described as “a hugely productive meeting” with clubs last night at Windsor Park and online to provide a “detailed update on the journey of NIFL’s progress in recent weeks with political representatives in relation to funding”.
There were fears at the start of last week that the sub-regional funding programme was in jeopardy when Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said that the proposal needed signed off from the NI Executive which collapsed earlier this month.
Football in Northern Ireland reacted with dismay at the thought of losing £36.2m of finance for the game that was initially allocated in 2015 but has been on the backburner.
But following a meeting last Thursday involving Hargey, NIFL and the Irish FA, declarations were made by the Minister that the money would be dished out in the near future with potentially further funding to come.
Lawlor, Chairman Colin Kennedy and Chief Operating Officer Steven Mills represented NIFL in the meeting with club officials at Windsor and via an online webcast to remote attendees.
When it concluded, Lawlor said: “The meeting was important for us as an organisation to communicate the latest information with our member clubs.
“Following our meeting with the Minister of the Department for Communities, we have the opportunity now to finally progress the flagship project of sub regional stadia funding for the benefit of NIFL clubs and support the essential work they do within their respective communities.
“We are working to provide the opportunity for this vital support to all our 43 member clubs. The next steps now for NIFL are to understand the needs and necessities of our members and we will do that by going out and meeting with all of our clubs.”
Those clubs will want to know what piece of the pie, if any, they are going to receive with numerous clubs across the country already lining up to grab a slice.
Previously the recommendation was that Glentoran would receive £10 million to upgrade their Oval ground with £17m available to other Premiership clubs capable of hosting fixtures with a 5,000 capacity, with teams able to apply for up to £3m to provide “quality football facilities and community facilities”.
There was another £3m for Championship clubs and the same figure was to be put towards intermediate and junior football, and a further £3m for a national training centre to aid current talent and future stars.
Since then, though, Minister Hargey ordered a fresh review into where the public money should go believing that priorities may have changed.
A Communities Department statement earlier this month read: “Some notable changes have been identified to date including a significant increase in participation at grassroots level and the rapid growth of the female game. The Minister is actively considering all the available evidence to ensure that the programme addresses all captured changes identified in the review exercise.”