THERE was good news for the sports sector on Monday as Sport NI announced further financial support through the Sports Sustainability Fund Programme to the sporting sector; bringing a total investment of £22.4 million through this specific fund.

The Sports Sustainability Fund is a critical support to sport at this time and Sport NI is pleased to make a further announcement of much needed financial support to the sports of: Gaelic games; rugby; golf; cricket; hockey; sailing; and angling, among others, which will sustain over 230 clubs. (Details of awards are available on the Sport NI website at: Sports Sustainability Fund Awards List | Sport NI)

The Sports Sustainability Fund will play a crucial role in supporting sport to emerge from Covid 19, as Sport NI continues to work with the Department for Communities and other Government departments; to create a pathway for a return to sport. Its core principles of integrity, accountability, transparency, has been applied rigorously, fair and consistently to applications.

Deirdre Hargey, Communities Minister, said: “I am pleased to report that these much needed funding awards are continuing to issue. They will help provide the sector, including grassroots clubs, with the financial support it needs to ensure it can cope with and recover from the impact of the Covid restrictions and the ongoing challenges the pandemic is presenting.”

Antoinette McKeown, Sport NI CEO, added: “The value of sport is never more important for us all as a society, as we tentatively emerge from COVID 19. 

"The sports sector has played an invaluable role in supporting our communities through this pandemic, and this funding is critical to sustain and empower the survival of Governing Bodies and clubs to get us all back to sport.

“I would like to pay tribute to sports Governing Bodies and Sport NI team for their dedication and commitment to coordinate the delivery of the Sports Sustainability Fund and other various programmes, in partnership with the Department for Communities."

Ulster GAA revealed that its application on behalf of clubs in the Six Counties has been awarded over £5.93m, bringing the total award to £7.38m that will be shared between 180 GAA clubs and units including camogie, ladies football and handball.

Welcoming the latest announcement, Ulster GAA Chief Executive Officer and Provincial Secretary Brian McAvoy said: “On behalf of our Clubs and units, I again wish to sincerely thank the Executive, the Department for Communities and Sport NI for their overall management of this funding process that will help greatly to sustain the sports sector at this difficult time.

“Ulster GAA staff have worked closely with our clubs and units over the last few months to ensure their applications and supporting documentation met the Fund criteria, so we are delighted with this level of successful applicants.”

Ulster Rugby has also welcomed the announcement and have echoed the sentiments that funding will prove invaluable to clubs as they prepare for a return to play in the near future.

On the news, Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said: “Today’s announcement of over £725,000 funding support for local rugby clubs in Northern Ireland is a lifeline in what has been a challenging year for everyone.

“I’m extremely proud of the community spirit our clubs have shown throughout the pandemic and they will continue to play a crucial role in supporting our collective recovery out of it – bringing people together to get fit, have fun and make friends.

“I’d like to place on record our sincere thanks to our colleagues at the Department for Communities and Sport NI for their continued support in securing this funding for our clubs through the Sports Sustainability Fund.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel in terms of a graduated return to sporting activity over the coming weeks and months in line with the NI Executive guidelines, and I for one can’t wait to see our clubs back in action again very soon.”

It is evident that the Sports Sustainability Funding and other programmes that Sport NI and the Department for Communities have launched will play an integral role in our pathway to recover when sport begins to emerge from Covid 19.

For further information on the Sports Sustainability Fund please visit the Sport NI website: Sports Sustainability Fund | Sport NI.