Sports clubs are at risk of going under after their applications for Covid relief funding were rejected, it has been warned.
inance Minister Conor Murphy has been asked to urgently intervene after it emerged over half of sporting social clubs and bars had their bids turned down.
Of 467 applications for support for social clubs under the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS), 201 were approved, 244 rejected, with 22 remaining unprocessed.
Mr Murphy released the details after an Assembly question from SDLP MLA Justin McNulty.
Eire Og GAC in Craigavon is one of those whose application was rejected. Life member Stevie Moore said many clubs are facing financial crisis.
Mr Moore, who is also public relations officer for the Armagh GAA Youth Board, said he believed some clubs were slipping between the cracks due to confusion with the Sports Sustainability Fund (SSF).
Under the LRSS, bars are entitled to £800 per week while they are closed. It is administered by the Department of Finance’s Land and Property Services (LPS).
Mr Moore said traditional bars and pubs received the same support as those attached to sporting clubs in 2020, but that this had now changed.
“We’re sitting in a position where Eire Og has fallen between two stools and it’s getting no assistance at all. The SSF was also rejected because the club was ‘not adversely affected by the pandemic’. Everybody’s been affected,” he said.
Eire Og has an on-site social club and this is also believed to be causing issues with applications. Mr McNulty said problems had arisen because “some sports clubs have two separate LPS rates accounts for their playing facilities and their social club, whereas others have all their facilities on the one LPS rates account”.
Mr Moore said the situation was causing a “serious cash flow crisis”.
He added: “The social club is the centre of everything at the club. It’s a community.
“It’s going to cost money to get the club up and running again, to get stock in, do a whole deep clean and stick to the Covid regulations.
“The licensed social clubs should be getting the £800 per week from the LRSS plus a claim from the SSF to invest in the sporting side. They need both to survive.”
Mr Moore said the current situation was “making life very difficult” for clubs.
“The clubs have been in cold storage for most of the year, you just can’t turn these things on and off so quickly and you really need the support,” he added.
He called on the Executive to use some of its Covid relief funding to revisit the applications before unspent money is returned to the Treasury.
Mr McNulty, an All-Ireland winner with Armagh in 2002, said many sports clubs were facing “terrible financial hardship”.
“It just appears to be a case of bureaucratic red tape getting out of control. We now have the ridiculous situation where one club in a town or village is getting assistance, whereas, another equally deserving club is not,” he said.
He said the issue needed “an urgent response.”
The Department of Finance was contacted for comment.