Sport in Northern Ireland gets £10m Covid-19 relief funding

Sports clubs across NI have been forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic
Sports clubs across Northern Ireland have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic

Northern Ireland sport has been awarded a £10m support package by the Assembly to help deal with the tightened Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The funding, which will go to the Sports Sustainability Fund, is part of a £300m package for NI that was announced by Finance Minister Conor Murphy on Monday.

From Friday, all elite sport in Northern Ireland will have to be played behind closed doors for two weeks.

Sport bodies in NI were given £15m release funding in October.

Welcoming the funding, Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: "The sports sector has suffered a significant blow as a result of the initial lockdown and further restrictions.

"It is having to deal with reduced membership subscriptions, limited or no gate receipts, reduced sponsorship, the cancellation of events and disruption to income generating activities.

"This funding, in addition to the £15m announced last month, will go some way to safeguarding the sector, which makes a major contribution to the lives of individuals and communities - and will have a key role to play as we emerge from this crisis. I am determined that this funding gets out to those individuals, clubs and governing bodies at the earliest opportunity."

Sunday's Senior Ulster Championship final between winners Cavan and Dongeal was played with no supporters in attendance at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.

Just over 1,000 fans were in Windsor Park for Northern Ireland's last two football internationals, while 1,000 spectators watched Ulster Rugby's victory at Belfast's Kingspan on Sunday.

Significantly reduced numbers have been able to go to Irish Premiership games since the league restarted in October, but that will not be possible for two weeks from Friday when the tightened two-week restrictions begin.

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