THE borough’s three leading clubs have put aside their sporting rivalries to make a play for ‘game-changing’ funding, which would ensure the future of sport in the borough remains top of the table.
A Department for Communities (DfC) evidence-gathering survey on sub-regional stadia facilities in Northern Ireland – which aims to identify strategic priorities for the development of football – has now closed for responses.
A special #MEAUnited Taskforce, formed by Mid & East Antrim Borough Council and spearheaded by its Chief Executive Anne Donaghy, is supporting Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers and Larne F.C. in their collective vision to transform the Ballymena Showgrounds, Taylors Avenue in Carrickfergus and Inver Park in Larne for future sporting generations.
Engaging with the survey is one key part of that continued focus to ensure sport, and its importance in creating healthier communities across Mid and East Antrim, can flourish in the borough.
In 2015, the Northern Ireland Executive allocated £36 million for a sub-regional stadia funding programme for local football.
Following the return of power sharing at Stormont in January this year, the Executive stated its intention to complete the programme, which includes plans to upgrade Irish League venues as well as the GAA stadium Casement Park in Belfast.
Irish Premiership clubs that are capable of hosting fixtures with a 5,000 capacity are eligible to apply for funding, with Ballymena United, Carrick Rangers and Larne F.C. all meeting the criteria.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said engaging with the DfC survey is an important next step in delivering the vision for the #MEAUnited initiative.
He added: “Through the work of the #MEAUnited Taskforce, Council and the three clubs are demonstrating their collective determination to realise their ambitions for sporting stadia, which would be on a level with the best in Northern Ireland.
“Larne FC, Ballymena United and Carrick Rangers have all dedicated themselves to inspiring the next generation of sportsmen and women, and to improving the health and wellbeing of our community across Mid and East Antrim, which is one of Council’s key priorities.
“While each club is unique and distinct, we are all committed to doing all we can to push ahead with our call for investment in football in the borough over the coming months.”