The Irish League have already shown the benefits of injecting cash: Larne FC owner

Larne FC owner Kenny Bruce has invested heavily in the club. Photo by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Mr Bruce said he was delighted that Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey was consulting with other ministers over the release of £36m for football stadium improvements, but said legal action still depended of three key areas.

He explained: ‘We certainly feel the minister has given reasonable assurances, but there are still three things that matter to me that we need answers to before we can consider taking further legal advice.

“First, we need confirmation that the financing of sub-regional stadiums remains a flagship project. Second, that he doesn’t need further executive approval to release the initial draft, and third, that the initial £36m is still exclusively for football. If we got confirmation of these three things, we would be very happy and satisfied.

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“It would put us in the position we were in before the minister’s announcement.”

He added: “We have sought legal advice, they believe we have a very strong case. If we do not get confirmation on these three points, we will certainly seek further legal advice. »

Regarding Irish League standards, Mr Bruce said: “At Larne we have shown – this is not an academic case study, this is a study of real life – that investing in football can bring together a community that can bring everyone together, that can improve health and well-being, that can reduce crime rates, improve education All of these things are happening in Larne because of the investments we have made over the past five years.

“There are other clubs that have invested in their facilities and you can see that has a direct impact – you look at Coleraine, they’ve improved their pitch, their crowds have swelled, their community engagement has improved, they’ve plans for the future.

“It’s clear in Northern Ireland football and Northern Irish sport that if you get the level of investment and support from the government, they’re keen to match the funds and put in their time, effort and their money to have an impact on the community.

“It’s definitely happening in the Irish League, which has so much potential, as a league, as a product.”

Deputy DUP leader Paula Bradley said Deirdre Hargey’s U-turn on football funding proves the minister had played politics.

She said: “Sub-regional funding affects football in all communities. The Sinn Fein minister’s attempt to play sectarian politics with her was shameful.

“The fund was part of the agreement on the new approach of the new decade. The minister had two years to provide the funding. Indeed, last September, she told us that it was in a few weeks.

“It is time for Minister Hargey to put aside her Sinn Fein political games and get on with her work and provide the funding.”

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