Nelson: windfall could transform game across NI
Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson has given a thumbs up to a £36m promise from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure that will impact on every level of football in the country.
While the IFA's long-held desire to build a National Training Centre is now a big step closer to coming to fruition in the near future, there are, however, matters to be ironed out before the Northern Ireland Executive sign off on the full amount.
Not least of those is the issue surrounding two separate IFA strategic plans.
The DCAL Sub Regional Stadia Programme, which was published yesterday, approves IFA plans which were drawn up in March 2011, requesting an investment of £36m.
The Association, however, want the money to be used to carry out work detailed in their Facilities Strategy document from 2012 and that is what they will be working off when they enter consultations with DCAL.
The main difference between the two documents is the promise of a whopping £10m to Glentoran for the redevelopment of The Oval.
The cash for the Glens was the main point of the 2011 submission, but in the 2012 plans there was no specific request for any club.
Instead the IFA asked for between 30 and 35 per cent of any investment to go to 'strategic intervention plans' which would involve a number of projects to bring grounds in the Danske Bank Premiership up to scratch with Uefa guidelines.
"We welcome the announcement by the DCAL Minister (Carál Ní Chuilín) that there will be a public consultation into the sub-regional stadium programme for football," said Nelson.
"With £36m 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."
The crux of Nelson's statement, however, involves the 2012 plans.
The IFA have argued that the 2011 strategy was a rushed document, put together at haste as they were given only a matter of days to come up with a wishlist of where they would spend money if it was forthcoming.
The 2012 submission, according to the IFA, was a much more detailed work, eight months in the making and with more people involved in drawing up the plans.
Nelson added: "The Irish FA will engage fully in the consultation and will be using our Facilities Strategy document, published in 2012, as the basis of our submissions to government.
"This document was prepared by the Association following eight months of research and consultation with clubs at all levels and stakeholders right across the country.
"It is my hope that this research, which advocates funding developments at all levels of domestic football and the provision of a new National Training Centre, will help inform any decisions that will be made by the Minister in the coming months."
The ambitious plans for a National Training Centre would bring Northern Ireland up to a similar level as other small and medium sized countries across Europe.