At the launch of Community Finance Ireland’s €5 million sports fund are Olympian Brendan Boyce; Anne Graham, client relationship manager with Community Finance Ireland; Patsy McGonagle, team leader at Finn Valley; and Michael McGarrigle, vice-chair, Community Finance Ireland board. Photo: Barry Cronin

Community Finance Ireland launches €5 million sports fund

Ireland has celebrated a summer of sporting success at national and international level but when we look to the grassroots of our sporting heroes, we must see how much more we could achieve with investment in community facilities.

That’s according to Community Finance Ireland, which this week has launched a new €5 million fund offering social finance solutions to sports clubs across the island of Ireland.

Over the past five years, Community Finance Ireland has supported 23 organisations in Connaught to the tune of €2.1 million – including sports groups in Mayo such as CLG Tuar Mhic Eadaigh.

The new fund will make flexible loans of between €10,000 and €500,000 available to sports organisations in Mayo seeking to make a change in their local community, whether that is to renovate changing or training facilities for their players and participants or to improve local infrastructure that makes their club grounds more accessible for the local community.

The fund was launched at an online event – Financial As Well As Physical Fitness Is Key To Success – with panellists including Sinead Reel, chairperson of Armagh Ladies’ GAA County Board, Joanne O'Riordan, sports journalist with The Irish Times, and Brendan Boyce, the Irish Olympian who trains at the Community Finance Ireland-funded Finn Valley Athletics Club in Donegal.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Anne Graham, Community Finance Ireland client relationship manager, stated: “Our athletes have been blazing a trail across tracks, pitches and pools, and inspiring our next generation of sporting heroes. While it’s been a summer to celebrate, it’s also challenged all of us to consider how much more we could achieve, how much more support we could provide our aspiring Olympians or All-Stars with greater investment in grassroots facilities and clubs.

“Every community will be looking to their local pitch, climbing wall or tennis court to see where improvements can be made to upgrade equipment, develop more accessible and inclusive facilities, or perhaps to make the circuit around a pitch or track a safe public walkway for the community to keep active on those darker winter nights by installing floodlights.

“Wherever a club sees an opportunity to invest in their local community, we want to put the power to make that change into their hands with fast, flexible, fair loans that can be used to bridge gaps in their funding, unlock drawdown of government grants, or provide much-needed project finance.

“We work closely with sports clubs across the country. In fact, they make up over a third of the organisations we work with, so we know what they need.

“We know that volunteers and board members aren’t in a position to provide personal guarantees, so we don’t ask for them. We know funding streams can be unpredictable, so we don’t change our interest rates or hand out penalties for early or lump-sum repayments.”

Speaking about the support received from Community Finance Ireland, Micheal Lang, club secretary with CLG Tuar Mhic Eadaigh, said: "Community Finance Ireland provided exceptional support to our project every step of the way. Their support, professionalism and communication were brilliant throughout the process. We would highly recommend them to any group thinking of financing a project.”

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