A "significant number" of sports clubs falling through government funding cracks: Justin McNulty

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has urged the Department of Finance to help clear up funding issues sports clubs are struggling with and warns of some going out of business

SDLP Sport Spokesperson Justin McNulty MLA has urged Finance Minister Conor Murphy to “intervene urgently” to help save many sports clubs who are in dire need of financial support from collapse following funding application issues.

In a letter to Minister Murphy, the Northern Ireland Sports Forum warned that “a significant number of clubs are falling between the cracks of various schemes”.

Falling between the two funding stools – the Department of Finance’s Localised Restrictions Support Scheme [LRSS] and the Department of Communities Sports Sustainability Fund - appear to be sports clubs with social clubs.

The Northern Ireland Sports Forum’s letter continued: “These sports clubs and their associated bar or restaurant are important contributors to the local economy…

“The LRSS directed sports clubs to the Sport NI Sustainability Fund. However, many clubs will only receive a small amount and in some cases, nothing at all from the Sport NI Sustainability Fund due to the application design being based on comparable losses with ‘normal years’ rather than lost income.”

While acknowledging that the issue could be a case of “bureaucratic red tape getting out of control”, Mr McNulty said the clubs were “pleading for help.”

“We know the number of properties involved and this issue can be resolved quickly.”

He added: “The Department received 467 applications from across the north from sports clubs with social clubs. Over half of these have been rejected by the Department.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance last night said: “The Department of Finance’s Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS) was created to provide financial help to certain businesses which have been required to close, or where the business service provided at their premises has been directly curtailed...

“Where an independent and separate restricted business operates from within a sporting premises and is not associated with the sports club or governing body, it is entitled to support through LRSS.”

They added: “The Department for Communities provides financial support to sports clubs and governing bodies recognised by Sport NI.

“It is a requirement of the Sports Sustainability Fund to declare income from any other Covid-related schemes, including LRSS, for consideration in the assessment to ensure they do not receive double funding.

“If a social club is legally separate from a sports club, rather than just rated separately, it will not get support from the Sports Sustainability Fund and may be eligible for the LRSS.”

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