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Casement Park funding spike could boost Irish League clubs in need of government financial aid

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Irish League clubs are set to benefit significantly from the huge spike in costs to redevelop Casement Park.

Sunday Life Sport understands the Irish FA, led by Chief Executive Patrick Nelson, are working with Stormont officials in a bid to have the proposed sub-regional funding pot increased from £36m to somewhere in the region of £60m.

This would be welcome news for many Northern Ireland Football League clubs who have been hit hard by lockdown restrictions, with some losing up to £40,000 a month and desperately in need of upgrading their facilities.

The push for secured funding comes at a time when the GAA are hoping to get increased Executive funding for the redevelopment of Casement Park.

It was reported this week that the Department for Communities (DfC) believe the cost of redeveloping the West Belfast venue is £40m more than the initial forecast of £76m.

The Stormont Executive committed £62m to the project in line with similar levels of funding rewarded to rugby and football, but the delay in getting the project under way has seen costs spiral.

The GAA are unwilling to increase their financial commitment to redeveloping Casement Park, prompting a sharp response from former Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin in November.

"If the Executive is being asked to meet the overrun and the costs that have increased, the GAA should be doing the same thing as well, and I've told them that," said Ni Chuilin.

However, there is political support for government funding to be directed to outstanding projects in local football after Windsor Park was redeveloped using public money, with Glentoran top of the list.

East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle said: "Funding is desperately needed for Irish League grounds. I would hope that the Minister for Communities' quick identification of Casement Park as a project in need of progression also means she will give her full support to the quick and timely allocation of the sub-regional stadia fund as well.

"In my own constituency of East Belfast, Glentoran were scheduled to receive a long, overdue and significant government investment into a new stadium.

"Other clubs have received government funding for other capital investment schemes, and I would be hopeful and confident of Glentoran receiving that funding as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, clubs are waiting on the allocation of Covid-19 relief funding from the DfC, which made £25m available to help sport in Northern Ireland.

Sources are hopeful that the fund has not been oversubscribed, as first feared, with news expected soon.

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