After many years of waiting, Ulster clubs are to receive financial help for the construction of new grounds or renovation of existing ones. National authorities are working on solutions for the distribution of money.
Funds to improve Northern Irish football infrastructure were awarded in 2015 but they were not transferred to clubs due to the collapse of Stormont (local parliament) in January 2017. All public aid is expected to be £36.2 million (€42.3 million).
According to Deirdre Hargey, Communities Minister, the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly on May 5 next year will not affect the funds. The sub-regional stadium funding programme for local football is safe as one of the government's most pressing goals and should be delivered before that date.
This reassurance should help implement the design of the new Glentoran ground that the club unveiled earlier this year. The construction cost was estimated at £10 million (€11.7 million). Coleraine also intends to use government help to build a stadium and training ground for a total of £7 million (€8.1 million). The Bannsiders have set themselves a 3 to 5 year timescale to put these plans into practise.
Larne FC, which reached the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League this year, has been granted permission to create a new 2,000-seat grandstand at Inver Park. The club's authorities want to cover the construction expenses mainly from the government funds.
Ways of allocating money are currently being developed. Government officials consult local councils, NI Football League and also review clubs' initial applications. In their deliberations, they must take into account the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, because a lot has changed since the granting of funds 6 years ago.
Author: Tomasz Sobura