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Football has waited long enough for our 'ring-fenced funding'

Liam Beckett


Stormont

It's something that's been on my mind for some time now, particularly since the reformation of the Assembly at Stormont, and that is just how soon will the powers-that-be release the sub-regional football stadia funding that a leading minister assured me a few years ago had been ringfenced for sport?

Naturally now that we have some semblance of governance, normality and stability back in place up on the hill, the expectancy levels amongst football fans has risen again that this pot of some £36million would be released pretty quickly so as to enable the receiving clubs to get going with their own respective improvements.

However, as I kind of half-expected, we are now being told that the entire scheme will require fresh consultations and I can fully understand that view as those previous agreed estimates and costs would have been set a few years ago.

It's perfectly acceptable that we would probably need updated quotations and projections, but I'm afraid it's this one official sentence alone that strikes fear into me as I feel any further unnecessary delay will only leave more wriggle room for those controlling the purse strings.

It was five years ago that the Northern Ireland Executive allocated a long overdue £36million towards the sub-regional programme for football. That never came to fruition because when the government collapsed, so did any chance of our sport getting its promised money.

Of course it's a no brainer that we need to prioritise all government funding. The health service and the education authority must be catered for first, but please don't underestimate the magnificent contribution made by sport, particularly during those dark days when we had no governing executive.

Whilst many of our politicians went AWOL and continued to squabble over some of the most trivial of things, it was sport that built the bridges within our communities whilst many of the so-called custodians of our country sat scratching their behinds.

Irish League clubs have worked tremendously hard to provide a hub for their local communities and the football family now have a great product it can be proud of.

So please do the decent thing and release the monies promised to us as soon as possible and don't be guilty of dragging your feet behind you in the process - it's the very least you can do!

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