Communities Minister Gordon Lyons offers update on Sub-Regional Stadia funding

A picture of Communities Minister Gordon Lyons
Communities Minister Gordon Lyons pictured during a visit to Coleraine Football Club on Wednesday -Credit:David Cavan

The wait for stadium funding may finally be coming to an end for Irish League clubs after Communities Minister Gordon Lyons gave a positive update on the current state of play. It has been over a decade since the government made the commitment of £36.2m towards the Sub-Regional Stadia funding programme designed to improve regional football grounds.

It was reaffirmed in 2020 in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ document before a further Stormont stalemate left clubs in limbo once more. But it seems the process may finally be coming to fruition with the Minister confirming he is set to make an announcement "very soon".

Speaking during a visit to Coleraine Football Club, one of the clubs waiting on much-needed funding to develop their Showgrounds venue, Mr Lyons reiterated his desire to get the process started saying it has always been a priority for him.

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"You can expect news on Sub-Regional Stadia Funding very soon," said Mr Lyons. "This has been a priority for me. One of my first questions that I asked the Assembly back in 2015 was about the release of funds for sub-regional stadia.

"I brought the-then Communities Minister Paul Givan to my own constituency in 2016 to visit Larne Football Club. So this is something I've wanted to see progress for a long time and long before I came into this post.

"I've been working and the first 100 days have been done and I've been working intensely to progress this programme along with my officials. I hope to be in a position very soon where I can set out the next steps on how we can disperse this money to clubs across Northern Ireland to include performance clubs, grassroots and I look forward to making an announcement soon. There are a few things that need to be finalised."

At present a funding package of £36.2m is on the table, but the Minister revealed he will be going back to the NI Executive looking for additional funds. What I want to do is make sure we put the money where it's going to make the most difference and the most impact on people because look at what we have at Coleraine today," he said.

"We need to make sure the facilities are there, we need to make sure the facilities are there for the women's and girls' game as well. That's what I'm committed to do right across Northern Ireland.

"We have got £36.2m but I'm not content with that. It doesn't come anywhere close to what we need and I will be looking for additional funding and I'll be going back to the Executive about this as well. I look forward very soon about setting out my vision - not just for the £36.2m of Sub-Regional Stadia Funding - but beyond that into the future."

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