North Belfast football club receive funding for pitches as part of new community fund

A football club in North Belfast is the first recipient of a fund to address social need through targeted funding to communities in Northern Ireland. Crusader's Football Club will be using their funds to focus on the installation of a new 3G pitch at their Loughshore Road Recreation Facility.

It's part of a £13million Social Capital Loan Scheme will be funded by the Department for Communities using Financial Transactions Capital and managed by Community Finance Ireland. Communities Minister, Gordon Lyons, said the scheme would provide targeted funding to help the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sector.

He said the fund will help increase accessibility to facilities while building community confidence. The focus is on offering more access for communities to sports and social enterprises.

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Minister Lyons said: "The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector is hugely important for our local economy, providing much needed employment opportunities as well as vital community support. It is great to visit Crusaders FC to see their plans for a new training base for their ladies and youth teams and meet some of the people who will benefit from the investment.

"As the Minister for Sport, I’m pleased to see projects which will increase participation in sport, encouraging people to be more active, more often.

"This scheme goes beyond the benefits these bricks and mortar projects will deliver. It also increases accessibility to facilities and builds community confidence, offering sports, cultural and social enterprises access to sustainable funding. Funding streams like this one can offer the VCSE sector a financial lifeline at a time when organisations are facing challenging budgetary conditions.”

Mark Langhammer, Crusaders FC Vice Chair said: “Crusaders Football Club are delighted to work with Community Finance Ireland in developing training facilities that will particularly benefit the female and junior sections of our club and surrounding area.

"The close relationship, added value and flexible nature of the finance provided by the Department for Communities through Community Finance Ireland best allows us to deliver on our plans and make modern football facilities available to everyone.”

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive of Community Finance Ireland, welcomed the new tranche of funding. He said: “This new capital programme offers the most substantial capital intervention to the social finance space in Northern Ireland, ever.

"As the most progressive community lender with over 20 years of history and a current social value return of 3.42:1, our team are delighted to channel the distribution and management of this capital throughout those community and social enterprise projects who are seeking financial support.”

Community Finance Ireland will apply their existing business model to prioritise projects for investment and manage repayments, with the investment being repaid to the Department for Communities over 15 years from drawdown.

The investment will be made by the Department for Communities in three tranches to 2025/26. £4.333million has already been released and three projects totalling £576k have been approved by CFI.

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