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DUP MP Carla Lockhart has met with Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown to emphasise the urgent need for support in grassroots sports clubs.

The Upper Bann representative said:

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on sporting clubs right across the community. Many of these clubs are small, with limited financial reserves. While lockdown ended their activities, the bills continued and put a huge burden on those who run the clubs, many of whom are volunteers. It has been a struggle to keep clubs in existence.

As restrictions ease, we need to be looking at ways to build resilience into our sporting community and assist them to survive and recover. The initial sports hardship fund from the Department for Communities fell well short of what was required in terms of budget and support. Indeed the disproportionate sums of money directed to one sports organisation raise a whole other set of questions with that funding round.

I am encouraged by my conversations with Sport NI that they are committed to ensuring more money will be distributed to local sporting clubs. There is also a challenge for governing bodies to support their members/clubs when money is released.

Sports clubs are an important part of the fabric of community. I encourage club organisers to ensure they are registered with Sport NI for updates and for guidance on operating in the coming days, and start to consider their needs over the coming months ahead of any new funding stream opening.”