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, who this week 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 have supported 98 organisations in Leinster to the tune of €11.3million. This includes sports groups in Kilkenny such as Kilkenny Storm Inline and Ice Hockey Club.
The new fund will make flexible loans of €10,000-€500,000 available to sports organisations in Kilkenny 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, sports journalist with the Irish Times Joanne O’Riordan, and Irish Olympian Brendan Boyce who trains at the Community Finance Ireland funded Finn Valley Athletics Club in Donegal.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Barry Symes, Community Finance Ireland Client Relationship Manager, said: “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 Paul Cummins from Kilkenny Storm Inline and Ice Hockey Club in Kilkenny, said: "The positive support, advice and understanding we received from the team in Community Finance Ireland allowed the club executive to deliver the project in a short timeframe.”
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