Minister Lyons unlocks ‘once in a lifetime’ football investment fund

Date published: 22 May 2024


A long-term programme of investment in local footballing facilities at all levels of the game has been unlocked by Communities Minister Gordon Lyons today.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons with local club representatives as he gives Ministerial approval to the Northern Ireland Football Fund

Addressing representatives from football clubs from across Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, the Minister set out his vision for The Northern Ireland Football Fund, formerly the Sub Regional Stadia Programme for Football.

He said:

“I am pleased to give Ministerial approval to The Northern Ireland Football Fund and to unlock for the first time this Executive commitment to modernising footballing facilities at every level in communities across Northern Ireland.

“I am seizing this once in a lifetime opportunity to transform the game locally. For players at performance and grassroots level I want to see better facilities. I want to see improved accessibility for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, both as participants and supporters. I want fans now, and in the future, to have the best experience at their local club. And looking forward, I want to foster our footballing stars of the future with the creation of a National Training Centre.

“I am committed to fully utilising the £36.2 million and to seeking to sustain the Fund with further investment from the Executive, from within the football sector and from across local government.”

The Fund will take a phased approach to delivery across its three strands.  The club investment strand will open for applications in this financial year and first funding awards to grassroots clubs will also begin roll out.

The Minister added:

“I expect the first projects to receive letters of offer from my Department within this financial year and to start spending their award in the 2025/ 2026 financial year. This will begin a rolling programme of awards and project delivery.

“Work is progressing at pace on a National Training Centre for Football to host elite training for our national men’s, women’s and youth teams and to drive skills for people involved at all levels of the game. I will be saying more on this in coming weeks.”

Minister Lyons continued: “Over the last 100 days, I have visited clubs and community football facilities across Northern Ireland. I recognise the passion and benefits this sport brings to so many people.

“I know the long delay has been a source of frustration for clubs and local communities. 

“I am committed to delivering long-term investment in football and I am determined to secure additional funding in future years to make this happen.  I look forward to continuing to work with clubs, the Irish FA and the Northern Ireland Football League to ensure clubs are accessible with high quality facilities, welcoming to all and that we secure a sustainable footballing future for the generations to come.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Photo caption:  Communities Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured with local club representatives as he gives Ministerial approval to the Northern Ireland Football Fund.
  2. The programme will be delivered in phases, using a transparent open grant funding competition.
  3. Clubs, councils, governing bodies and other partners will be required to make financial contributions in the form of partnership funding to all strands of the Programme.
  4. Performance clubs are defined as senior men’s and women’s teams whose home ground is located in Northern Ireland.
  5. Media enquiries to DfC Press Office.
  6.  Follow us on Twitter @CommunitiesNI.
  7. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110. 

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