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On 9th October 2023, Sport NI opened a new £1million pound capital investment fund which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of sports clubs throughout Northern Ireland and contribute to a more sustainable sports club network.

Funded by The National Lottery, the Renewable Energy Fund will support sports clubs with infrastructure upgrades such as solar energy systems, air and ground source heating systems, sustainable water recycling solutions, and floodlight upgrades.

The Renewable Energy Fund will be delivered as a pilot programme in 2023/24, as Sport NI gathers information on which environmental interventions have the greatest impact within sports clubs. The fund was developed using feedback from sports clubs through Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Investment will be spread across Northern Ireland with at least one club from each of the 11 council areas being selected to take part. To be eligible, clubs must have completed Sport NI’s Environmental Sustainability Survey.

Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance for Northern Ireland at Community Finance Ireland said:

“I welcome the announcement of this new initiative from Sport NI which will enable sports clubs across Northern Ireland to invest in infrastructure upgrades in line with renewable energy ambitions. Not only will the initiative have a positive impact on the environment but it will reduce clubs’ long term energy costs, allowing them to invest the savings into other areas of the clubs’ development.”

WHO CAN APPLY?

  • The Renewable Energy Fund Pilot Programme will only accept applications from sports organisations in Northern Ireland who either own or operate their own sports facilities.

WHAT TYPE OF PROJECTS CAN BE FUNDED?

  • Sport NI are interested in taking forward the following types of energy projects within sports clubs:
  • Solar Energy Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Air Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Ground Source Heating Systems (and ancillary equipment).
  • Sustainable Water Recycling Systems.
  • Fixed Floodlight Upgrades (Specifically upgrades to LED Bulbs and Connection to Grid).
  • Sport NI may consider alternative interventions if recommended in your club energy audit, and if the benefits of that intervention have been clearly articulated.

If you are ready to apply to the Sport NI Renewable Energy Fund, click here for more details.

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– Community Finance Ireland delivers almost €1 million of financial support in Cork since 2016 –

Na Piarsaigh GAA, a thriving football and hurling club with almost 800 playing members, is looking to the future with further expansion plans, after support from Community Finance Ireland (CFI) enabled the club to restructure existing bank debt.

First founded by a group of local schoolboys, Na Piarsaigh GAA Club has been at the centre of the Fairhill community in Co. Cork since 1943. As the club prepares to celebrate its 80th anniversary, the board are outlining plans for further expansion to meet the demands of a growing membership.

During the recession, the club experienced financial difficulties, which former Club Chairman Denis O’Neill says led to an anxious time for the board:

“The recession hit us badly, we fell back on payments and were very worried. When we dealt with the bank, they were dealing with us like we were a business. It was at that time that James O’Connor, Selector and Club Accountant at Na Piarsaigh, brought Community Finance Ireland to the attention of the Board.”

Na Pairsaigh GAA Sports Capital Grant Community Finance Ireland
At Na Piarsaigh GAA club Grounds Fairhill Cork City are L to R:) Seán Óg Ó hAilpín (local player & legend); Nora Keogh, CFI Client Relationship Manager Munster and Daire Connery (current club legend). As the club restructures its finances with CFI support and advice all looks well for the future legacy of this fantastic volunteer led GAA Club.

Community Finance Ireland provides social finance loans to community and volunteer-led organisations that drive social impact through sport, community projects, faith-based groups, and social enterprises. Operating a model similar to traditional credit unions, all loan repayments go toward supporting other communities across Ireland. CFI provided Na Piarsaigh Hurling and Football Club with a long-term loan of €500,000 to restructure their existing bank loans.

Club Chairman Na Piarsaigh GAA Denis O’Neill said:

“I particularly like that Community Finance Ireland are a non-profit organisation. CFI understand that we are volunteers who just want to provide quality sports services for our local community. They understand where we are coming from and the challenges we faced as a voluntary board.”

Nora Keogh, CFI Client Relationship Manager for the Munster Region, said:

“Na Piarsaigh are an important hub for the local community with members playing at under six right up to senior level. Beyond the players and their families, the club also offers accessible facilities to the wider community through hire of the hall, and their indoor arena, the first of its kind to be built in Ireland which is a great source of pride for the club. We’re delighted to have helped the club refinance and find a pathway to become debt free. The legacies of the recession still have a hold on many clubs across Ireland and we’re proud to help them pave a way forward so that like Na Piarsaigh, they can plan for the future, rather than feel bogged down by the past.”

O’Neill says the club hopes to develop new facilities for the local community and upgrade the public walkway. They hope to secure adjacent land to accommodate an additional training pitch.

Between 2016 and 2022, Community Finance Ireland delivered €7.8m in social finance supports to volunteer and community-led organisations in Munster, including €0.8m in support of projects in Cork.

A total of £16.9m (€18.5m) has been allocated to 162 sports clubs and organisations across Ireland between 2016 and 2022.

If your club is  looking for finance, get in touch today or follow us on Twitter.  

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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 today (23.09.21) launched a new €5 million fund offering social finance solutions to sports clubs across the island of Ireland.

The new fund will make flexible loans of €10,000-€500,000 available to sports organisations 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 launched today 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 at the launch, Anne Graham, 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”.

Anne Graham- Client Relationship Manager, Community Finance Ireland

Patsy McGonagle, Chairman of Finn Valley Athletics Club, worked with Community Finance Ireland to make essential improvements to their grounds in 2013.  He said:

“We’re providing a modern facility in an area where there’s very little opportunity. The mental impact that’s had on the community, the physical and social impact – it’s all positive. When there was a shortfall and we needed money, Community Finance Ireland’s welcome and their approach made it a win-win for us big time. They were very responsive, easy to work with. It was a great experience. The facility would not exist were we not to get that finance.”

Patsy McGonagle- Chairman, Finn Valley Athletics Club

Here’s What You Need to Know

1. What loan product types are available?

  • Short term bridging loans to facilitate retrospective drawing of grant support (interest only, plus grant upon redemption).
  • Longer term loans with bespoke repayment schedules.

2. What geography does the fund cover?

  • Northern Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht.

3. What is the loan range?

  • £10k – £500k (NI).
  • €10k – €500k (RoI).

4. What is the term range?

  • 1 month – 180 months.

5. What is the interest rate?

  • Maximum 6.25%*, calculated on a reducing balance.
  • *The lowest maximum rate across the island.

6. Is there an arrangement fee?

  • No*
  • *The only bridging product available across the entire island to do so.

7. What security is required?

  • None on bridging loans.
  • Most of our term loans are also unsecured.
  • No Personal Guarantees are required.

8. Is there an Early Repayment penalty?

  • No.

9. How long does a loan decision take?

  • 48 hours for any loan request of up to £/€200k once we have all of your final information.
  • Up to 4-6 weeks for loan request in excess of £/€200k.

10. How do I apply?

  • You can get started now by clicking here and completing an online application.
  • Or if you need to chat to us first click here and we will arrange a follow up call with either Phelim, Peter, Emmett, Barry, Nora or Anne depending on where you and your team are located.

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Following a summer where local sporting heroes made their mark at national and international level, Community Finance Ireland has launched a £5 million fund aimed at sports clubs throughout the island of Ireland. 

The new fund will make flexible loans of £10,000-£500,000 available to sports organisations 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 launched today 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 for 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 at the event, Phelim Sharvin, Head of Community Finance (NI) at Community Finance Ireland said:

“The considerable appetite for finance from the sports sector shows no signs of slowing down, with almost a third of queries to our website coming through from sports clubs . 

The success of NI sports people this summer has meant that there’s increasing demands on clubs who are experiencing growing membership and interest in their offerings.  We know that the flexibility of the loan terms, alongside the speedy decision-making process makes this an attractive product for sports clubs. 

With just over a third of loan applications last year coming from the sports sector, this is an area Community Finance Ireland know really well.  In the period June 2020-June 2021, queries from sports organisations were higher than ever with roughly a quarter of these approaches coming from Northern Ireland. Interest from GAA and football clubs continues to be strong, however we’re starting to see engagement from less traditional disciplines like gymnastics and cricket where increasing membership requires additional space and therefore investment in facilities.” 

Phelim Sharvin- Head of Community Finance (NI), Community Finance Ireland

Flight Gymnastics in County Antrim, a client of Community Finance Ireland since 2017, has experienced a 300%+ increase in membership in the past 24 months. Andrew O’Hare and Judith Hindes attribute recent growth in part to the Olympics, but more so coming out of lockdown and the need younger people have to develop much needed fundamental movement and social interaction skills greatly affected over the last 18 months.  

Andrew O’Hare from Flight Gymnastics said:

“We’ve been working with Community Finance Ireland since 2017, accessing finance for working capital and the installation of a specialist heating system in our premises. The relationship we have with the team means they know our business and how we work and the fast decision-making process means that we can be as flexible as possible in responding to the changing needs of our members.  Due to a significant increase in our membership base we’re currently looking at expanding our premises and we know that Community Finance Ireland understands how important this facility will be, not only to us but to our members and their families.”

Andrew O’Hare, Flight Gymnastics

Here’s What You Need to Know

1. What loan product types are available?

  • Short term bridging loans to facilitate retrospective drawing of grant support (interest only, plus grant upon redemption).
  • Longer term loans with bespoke repayment schedules.

2. What geography does the fund cover?

  • Northern Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht.

3. What is the loan range?

  • £10k – £500k (NI).
  • €10k – €500k (RoI).

4. What is the term range?

  • 1 month – 180 months.

5. What is the interest rate?

  • Maximum 6.25%*, calculated on a reducing balance.
  • *The lowest maximum rate across the island.

6. Is there an arrangement fee?

  • No*
  • *The only bridging product available across the entire island to do so.

7. What security is required?

  • None on bridging loans.
  • Most of our term loans are also unsecured.
  • No Personal Guarantees are required.

8. Is there an Early Repayment penalty?

  • No.

9. How long does a loan decision take?

  • 48 hours for any loan request of up to £/€200k once we have all of your final information.
  • Up to 4-6 weeks for loan request in excess of £/€200k.

10. How do I apply?

  • You can get started now by clicking here and completing an online application.
  • Or if you need to chat to us first click here and we will arrange a follow up call with either Phelim, Peter, Emmett, Barry, Nora or Anne depending on where you and your team are located.
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