A number of County Armagh sports clubs are celebrating after being confirmed as among 28 to score a share of £600,000 windfall.
Lurgan Town, Hanover, Oxford Sunnyside and Camlough Rovers – as well as Rathfriland in Co Down – are among the successful teams who will enjoy a range of enhanced facilities as a result.
The UK Government says more people in Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to get involved in sport thanks to this investment in multi-sport grassroots facilities through the Irish Football Association.
As part of the Government’s 2022/23 commitment, 28 facilities in Northern Ireland are benefitting from new pitches, goalposts, floodlights and changing rooms, increasing the availability and access to high quality facilities for football, hockey and other grassroots sports.
The Government says one of its key priorities is to level up access to community sports facilities in all parts of the UK, to help as many people as possible to get involved in sport and to deliver all of the mental and physical health benefits associated with active and healthy lifestyles.
The latest investment is part of the Government’s ongoing £300 million multi-year investment into grassroots multi-sport pitches across the UK by 2025 – more than £7 million of this will be invested in Northern Ireland.
Locally, Camlough Rovers will receive £30,000 to help improve disabled access at its Weaver Brook ground.
Oxford Sunnyside and Hanover will receive £30,000 and £14.107.50p respectively towards the costs of fencing at Knockramer and Brownstown Parks.
Lurgan Town will get £20,974.50p to help the club with fencing and improving disabled access.
Meanwhile, Rathfriland FC will benefit to the tune of £21,240 towards the cost of floodlights at its Iveagh Park ground.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Today we are delivering 28 new and improved grassroots sports facilities across Northern Ireland to continue to support, sustain and grow community and grassroots sport – so that physical activity is accessible to all, no matter a person’s background or location.
“We will continue to work with the Irish Football Association to nurture the talent of the future whilst making sure local communities have the sporting facilities that they need.”
A central aim of the programme is to level up access to community sports facilities and invest in some of the most deprived areas in the UK, to give as many people as possible the opportunity to take part in sport.
In order to achieve this, and to deliver access that every community needs, at least 50% of investment will be spent in underprivileged areas.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said: “As a referee, I’ve witnessed first hand the benefits of grassroots sport, and this significant funding announcement will provide an amazing boost to communities across Northern Ireland, allowing more people to enjoy access to these great facilities.
“During my recent visit to Crewe United, I heard what this support means to local people, and I’m delighted that the UK Government and Irish Football Association are working together to widen participation in sport.”
Patrick Nelson, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Football Association said the funding demonstrates an “important investment in grassroots football across Northern Ireland”.
And he added: “The role of the Irish FA is to promote, foster and develop football for all and we are delighted to work with the UK Government to help local clubs provide the facilities needed to increase access to the wide-ranging benefits of grassroots football participation for previously underrepresented groups and everyone in our community.”
The UK Government, in partnership with the Irish Football Association, has now invested £1.3 million in facilities in Northern Ireland since 2021, with over 50 sites having benefitted to date.
Throughout the lifecycle of the grassroots multi-sport facilities investment programme which will run to 2025, Northern Ireland will receive more than £7 million to help nurture the talent of the future.