Call for clarification from minister over suspended sports fund payments

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MLA Kellie Armstrong.

Q Radio Sport

Alliance Party Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong has said she has concerns over a fund designed to help sporting bodies financially after it was suspended due to being over-subscribed.

The Department for Communities’ Hardship Fund for Sport was launched a week ago with £500,000 to help sports clubs and organisations with overheads and maintaining facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

It was increased to £750,000. However, with more than 350 applications already submitted, the fund has been suspended after the budget ran out. Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong said it had not been made clear to the public the criteria for applicants.

“Due to the quick uptake by clubs and organisations, the decision has been taken to suspend the grant only five days after it opened, despite the Department increasing the amount of money in it. That is regretful,” she said.

“The criteria for applicants was not made public. If it was first come, first served, as it appears now to have been, it is unfair on those clubs and organisations who have not yet applied. Many of them will not have had time to submit their application and yet the scheme has been closed after only five days.

“I will be asking the Communities Minister for clarity on this matter, from the breakdown of the successful applicants to why the first come, first served nature was not publicised. We need to make sure we use public money effectively and efficiently, not just for those who have the staff and time to complete application forms quickly.”

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