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Irish League clubs set to receive £450k injection through new partnership with The National Lottery



Northern Ireland Football League clubs are in line for a funding boost.

Northern Ireland Football League clubs are in line for a funding boost.

Northern Ireland Football League clubs are in line for a funding boost.

Irish League clubs will each receive a share of a £450k cash injection as part of a new partnership with The National Lottery.

All clubs in the Northern Ireland Football League (both men's and women's divisions) will benefit from the latest bout of funding announced amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Two rounds of sports funding have so far been announced by the Northern Ireland executive, but the timings of either an initial £15m package nor a follow-up £10m deal are as yet uncertain.

As part of local football's new partnership, National Lottery players will receive benefits such as free match tickets once stadiums have fully reopened and VIP experiences with the Northern Ireland national team.

"The clubs are important parts of their communities and the funding recognises their role beyond just a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday afternoon," read an Irish FA statement. "They provide a source of pride to their local areas and have been at the heart of their communities through the duration of the pandemic.

"The funds will play a key role in ensuring that the clubs can continue to exist and operate during the pandemic. The money will be distributed by the Irish FA to clubs ensuring their continued survival."

Both men's and women's Danske Bank Premiership clubs are currently playing without supporters while men's Championship and Premier Intermediate Division sides have yet to begin their league season, which are now due to kick off on January 2.

There have been fears that clubs could be forced out of business due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Crusaders FC chairman Ronnie Millar admitted he fears clubs could be forced out of business.

"There is the prospect of clubs going out of business, like companies who are struggling," he said. "It could take a few months for the Sport NI money to arrive, and if it doesn't come until after March we could be saying goodbye to clubs.

"In the meantime, they have to honour contracts. While clubs are struggling, we are always mindful of the fact a lot of people have lost their lives."

Announcing the new National Lottery deal, Andrew Johnston, Managing Director of the NI Football League, said: “This funding is a huge boost to our member clubs at a particularly desperate time. We would like to express our sincere thanks to The National Lottery for their support in safeguarding the immediate future of our clubs."

There are as many as 41 teams playing senior football in NIFL divisions, although four of those are represented by both men's and women's sides, taking the total number of clubs to 37.

The Irish FA have been asked for further details on the division of funds and when clubs can expect to receive their share.

The partnership follows similar initiatives between the FA and National League in England, and the FAW and Cymru Leagues in Wales. Work continues on a partnership with the Scottish FA.

The money for these initiatives is coming from a National Lottery promotional fund. It is not being funded by money allocated for National Lottery Good Causes or by Camelot.

Belfast Telegraph