DUP MLA Maurice Bradley has claimed the announcement on Monday that the funding scheme to upgrade football stadiums in Northern Ireland cannot be progressed is ‘typical Sinn Fein electioneering’.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey told MLAs the £36m funding package to upgrade and redevelop regional football stadia has been shelved.
East Londonderry MLA Bradley has now written to the Communities Minister in relation to the stadia funding announcement.
He said: “I have asked the Minister to engage with clubs like Coleraine FC who have used their own finances to plan and start work on their grounds, as they couldn’t wait any longer on this funding being released.
“The stadia funding has already been agreed at Executive level, it is only waiting on the Minister releasing the funds.
“Sinn Fein conveniently forgot that they collapsed Stormont for three years.
“Prior to that collapse, the then Communities Minister Paul Given, had undertaken an extensive survey and was about to release the funding.
“Upon the reinstatement of Stormont, the new Communities Minister Hargey decided to do a further consultation, causing further delay to this funding.
“For two years the Minster has dithered, telling everyone that a result was just around the corner, but still today nothing has been delivered.
“In August she said progress would be made ‘in the coming weeks’.
“In September she said the programme would be rolled out ‘in the short time ahead’.
“What we have seen however is a Minister playing politics with sports and with funding for our football clubs.”
The Sinn Féin minister said she had been committed to delivering the funding before the end of the mandate but “it is not my fault people walked out of the Executive”.
MLA Claire Sugden has also spoken out about the failure to deliver the stadia funding.
She said: “It is a poor excuse to blame the absence of the First and deputy First Minister for this decision.
“I have been seeking updates on this funding for nearly a year and each time I have been promised it will be forthcoming.
“This is a significant blow for local clubs, particularly those outside Belfast. Clubs were working towards exciting plans which would develop their stadiums towards a community space that is so much more than football.
“Many football grounds, like Coleraine FC, sit within working class areas, so this funding was an opportunity to support local people, strengthen communities and invest in an area, bringing hope and aspiration.”
“The Communities Minister and the wider Executive need to fully explain this decision to those working towards projects with positive, far reaching impact.”
Coleraine FC have commenced the third phase of the Stadium Redevelopment plan.