11/03/2011

Rugby, GAA And Soccer Score Funding

There has been mixed reactions to news of a massive post-budget injection of cash into NI's sporting facilities - although the news is very positive for the troubled construction sector.

The Stormont Sports Minister, MLA, Nelson McCausland (pictured) announced that both soccer and Gaelic games would both get over £61m, while rugby will receive just under £15m.

Speaking on Friday Minister McCausland said he was pleased with the distribution throughout all sports: "The money has been set aside for upgrades and the need has been identified as part of a long term project," he added.

He also said the development would benefit health, tourism, the construction industry and the Northern Ireland economy.

"Modern, fit-for-purpose and spectator-friendly stadium facilities can only enhance the sports' standing and will assist the development of the three sports from grassroots right up to international levels," said the DUP Minister.

The Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has welcomed the announcement that more than £60m is to be invested in his former constituency of West Belfast to reconstruct Casement Park as the provincial headquarters for Gaelic Games in Ulster.

The former MP for the area has been one of the foremost advocates for public investment in the GAA and for the investment in Casement Park.

"This is an excellent example of the Executive delivering," he commented.
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"In the past, areas like west Belfast and organisations like Cumann Luthchleas Gael were excluded from large-scale public investment.

"This announcement is a major breakthrough. If harnessed effectively it can be part of a significant economic stimulus package in west Belfast."

However, one commentator, Eamon Christie, Athletics Ireland Coach of the Year, said the money could have been divided more fairly.

Speaking to BBC NI he said: "I don't disagree with other sports' needs, it's just the amount.

"The Mary Peters athletic track has been in desperate need of an upgrade for the past 10 years and we only needed about £1m.

"I don't doubt the popularity of the other sports but maybe if we had the investment they did we could produce talent that would increase the popularity of athletics."

He was speaking on foot of news that the money included the Irish Football Association (IFA) receiving a huge £25m to upgrade Windsor Park plus an additional £36m to improve some other stadia and set up a new national training centre.

The Ulster Council of the GAA will get a similar sum to help make Casement Park a 40,000 all-seated stadium.

There will be £14.7m to enable Ulster Rugby to build new and upgrade existing stands at Ravenhill.

IFA Chief Executive, Patrick Nelson, said it was a great day for football.

"We have been working with the minister and the sports department to look at making Windsor Park fit for purpose.

"Football is the most popular sport and this money will make the difference at club level as well."

(BMcC/GK)

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