Coronavirus: Hardship fund reopens for NI sports clubs

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footballImage source, Getty/Mike Harrington

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has announced the reopening of the Sports Hardship Fund.

It was set up for sports clubs and organisations, which were unable to receive support from other government Covid-19 funds.

Applications had to be suspended at one stage after being over-subscribed.

More than £1m of funding has helped more than 500 clubs maintain the facilities they own or lease during the coronavirus restrictions.

From Thursday, clubs and sporting organisations can submit applications for support up to £2,000 if it is their first Sports Hardship Fund application.

This third round of funding will help sports clubs that are struggling because of the increased costs of "block booking" facilities they hire.

Ms Ní Chuilín said sports clubs that currently hire their facilities had not been able to apply for the first two rounds.

"As some of the lockdown restrictions have eased, clubs have been able to resume their sports in a phased and sensible manner," she said.

'Not only survive, but emerge stronger'

However, she added that had brought with it additional costs not previously experienced like "additional cleaning charges and a reduced income due to the limited numbers of participants".

"This grant will go a long way to support such clubs, which play a vital role in our communities in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, as they return to sport," she said.

Image source, Inpho
Image caption,
Sports clubs across Northern Ireland have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic

Other sports clubs and organisations which have previously received the grant, and are still experiencing hardship, can apply for a further £1,000 from the fund.

Antoinette McKeown, from Sport NI, said it was "imperative" that clubs and sporting organisations be supported "not only to survive, but emerge stronger from this pandemic to support our communities' wellbeing".

"As we move into the winter months, the sporting sector has told us that the hire of indoor facilities for training is another essential element which now needs to be considered for support," she said.

"We want to ensure that sports clubs and organisations can continue to operate under Covid restrictions throughout the winter months," she said.

Eligibility criteria will apply and are set out on Sport NI's website.