UCIT launches £4m fund for sports organisations

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Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director, UCIT and Caroline McLaughlin, Project Officer, Naomh Pól CLG

The Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) has ‘kicked off’ a dedicated £4m fund for sporting organisations seeking finance.

UCIT, one of the UK’s largest providers of social finance, has already provided £7m to 70 clubs across Ireland, helping deliver new training facilities, clubhouses and state-of-the-art pitches. The new fund will commit a further £4m to the local sporting sector over the next five years.

Recent beneficiaries include Naomh Pól CLG and Shorts Sports and Recreation Club in Belfast which together have received £350,000 to support major community investments.

Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director of UCIT, said: “The way in which the sporting sector is funded has changed rapidly over the past decade. With less grant funding from Government available and less capacity from high street banks, groups are increasingly relying on social finance.

“UCIT can provide sporting clubs with a bespoke service to help them access finance which takes into account the needs of the sector. Tailored finance is available to support a wide range of purposes including property acquisition, capital build projects, equipment purchase and restructuring of existing debt.

“Often the loan may match grant funding secured from a funder such as SportNI or a local council. Crucially, the repayment schedule is closely matched to the varied revenues from a social club, member’s subscriptions, patron schemes and fundraising events.

“Our vision is to work with clubs to help them remain as a hub at the heart of their local communities.”

Shorts Sports and Recreation Club received a loan from UCIT to help it acquire a 14-acre site. The club has an active history in east Belfast and the funding will help it further develop facilities offering a range of sports and recreational activities.

UCIT has also supported a number of GAA clubs including Naomh Pól CLG in west Belfast. The financial assistance, with further support from a range of other funders, has facilitated the construction of a 3G facility and a standing terrace for the main playing pitch.

David Gibson, Chairman of Shorts Sports and Recreation Club, said: “This club has been serving the community of east Belfast for almost 80 years, providing three playing pitches, a bowling green, a health and fitness suite as well as space for local societies.

“The funding available from UCIT will enable the club to significantly enhance its facilities and allow us to offer an even wider range of modern sporting and recreational space.”

Caroline McLaughlin, Project Officer, Naomh Pól CLG, said: “As a club we are moving forward and are delighted with our new facilities to support our continued success. This wouldn’t have been possible, however, without financial support from UCIT. As an organisation they backed us at a time when the club needed assistance. We couldn’t recommend UCIT highly enough and would urge other clubs to consider their funding opportunities.”

Since its inception in 2001, UCIT, which is a registered charity, has provided loan commitments totalling over £60m to over 400 third sector organisations in Northern Ireland. Clients include sports clubs, community associations, charities, green energy projects, faith-based organisations and arts projects.

Other sports clubs supported by UCIT include Knockbreda FC, Glenullin GAC and the Torrent Complex in Donaghmore.

Further information is available by contacting UCIT on 028 9031 5003 or visiting www.ucitltd.com

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