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Belfast's Irish League clubs open joint discussions to secure £6m funding boost to upgrade facilities

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Crusaders and Cliftonville have come together with Linfield and Glentoran to try and secure funding to upgrade their facilities

Crusaders and Cliftonville have come together with Linfield and Glentoran to try and secure funding to upgrade their facilities

�INPHO/Stephen Hamilton

Crusaders and Cliftonville have come together with Linfield and Glentoran to try and secure funding to upgrade their facilities

Linfield, Glentoran, Cliftonville and Crusaders are in discussions with Belfast City Council to secure up to £6m of funding to upgrade facilities at their grounds.

Sunday Life Sport understands the Danske Bank Premiership’s four Belfast clubs have held two meetings to date with BCC officials to explore the possibility of funding stadia projects to the tune of £1.5m each, and will draw up a briefing document to state their case.

“We looked at the support the Mid East Antrim Council is giving to Ballymena United, Larne and Carrick Rangers and so we approached Belfast City Council with some ideas of our own,” says one club source. “Talks are at an early stage but so far our ideas have been well received.”

This revelation comes hot on the heels of an announcement from Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin on Thursday that she intends to make £15m of Covid-19 relief funding available to all sports in Northern Ireland.

Football clubs, it is understood, will be expected to apply for the grant aid themselves.

The Northern Ireland Executive Covid-19 relief funding, while welcomed, left many football insiders privately disappointed as they had expected the Minister to apportion a figure closer to the £33m allocated to support the arts sector through the pandemic recently.

It remains to be seen how much of the £15m will go to football at all levels in the province, but a Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) Task Force set up to make a case for support estimated £3.5m of relief funding would be required to ensure the survival of all its member clubs.

Sport NI will manage the funding process and applications for support, with the Irish FA set to offer help to Leagues and individual clubs.

"We welcome the funding for the sports sector from the Northern Ireland Executive and look forward to seeing details of how we can apply, and signpost clubs and Leagues to do likewise," said an IFA spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Sunday Life can also reveal that the Mid East Antrim Council has made a pitch for £18m of funding from the £36m of Stormont money earmarked for football under the Sub Regional Funding scheme.

IFA CEO Patrick Nelson met MEA Council CEO Anne Donaghy three weeks ago to hear a council appeal for funding on behalf of Carrick, Ballymena and Larne.

"We attended a meeting with representatives from the Mid and East Antrim Council, Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers FC and Larne FC where they outlined their aspirations to access support from the Sub Regional Funding pot when it becomes available," said the IFA spokesperson.

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