The Northern Ireland Sports Forum has backed the new business grant scheme set up because of coronavirus but says it won’t apply to small sports clubs.
The Forum’s executive manager Ciaran Kearney said the scheme would help some sports clubs and organisations “to keep the lights on”.
Clubs with a net annual value between £15,000 and £51,000 can apply.
“But the vast majority of sports clubs fit actually in the bracket of under £15,000,” added Kearney.
The scheme will enable businesses in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors to apply for business grants of £25,000.
“It will apply to sports clubs that are within the net annual value brackets £15,000 to £51,000,” continued Kearney.
“There are quite a number of sports clubs that fit within that so it is a very welcome boost for them and it’s testament to the work of the sports governing bodies and ourselves in the sports forum trying to argue the case for that inclusion.
“It will ensure that some sports clubs and organisations are able to keep the lights on and that they are able to continue and hopefully look forward to maintaining the facilities they have so that when this crisis comes to and end that they are ready to deal with the resumption of activities and hopefully a greater interest in people wanting to continue to be physically active.
“Sports clubs I and our governing bodies are saying obviously this is a very welcome measure from the Department of the Economy and we’re very delighted to see it be extended but the vast majority of sports clubs fit actually in the bracket of under £15,000 of net annual value.
“While this is very very welcome the vast majority of sports clubs will not fit within this programme and that’s why we’ll still be calling for the small business relief programme to be extended to sport.
“We kind of suppose find it a bit strange that the larger grant programme has been extended to allow sports to get involved but this programme but the £10,000 grant still excludes sports and that would be a game changer because the vast majority of sports clubs from all different kinds and types of sports will be in the smaller programme.”
Kearney said the NI Sports Forum has been delighted by the hardship fund set up by Sport Northern Ireland and the Department of Communities which is expected to help around 350 sports clubs.
“But by their own reckoning Sport NI and the Department, there are about 4,000 sports clubs out there and the vast majority fit within the parameters of the £10,000 grant scheme.
“So that would be really key that would provide us with a wider, more comprehensive support programme for clubs that have their own facilities and their own activities.”
‘Engage with your governing bodies’
Kearney advised sports club and organisations to engage with their governing bodies to “see what support programmes are available to them”.
“Governing bodies will be able to advise sports clubs what they need to do and hopefully if we can get some more good news from the Department of Economy on the other scheme that would be comprehensive.
“There will be some other big sports clubs that will still remain outside programmes but at this stage we would really be calling for the extension of the £10,000 small business scheme.”
Kearney added that the NI Sports Forum has not yet heard of any sports clubs that have gone under.
“That may be due to a range of different factors. Some sports are just maybe starting off their seasons and summer sports will just be kicking off or thrown in or whatever the nature is, and some sports clubs are about to wrap up their seasons.
“There are variance of different reasons but the planning and ability to plan for the months ahead and the losses of income will be key in the summer months for a lot of sports organisations who rely on attendances and also maybe trading and hospitality as par to their sporting activities.”