Junior Football Training Kicked Out Of Touch

Local junior training programmes in Gaelic football and soccer have been shelved due to lack of funding and certainty in planning a regional budget for Northern Ireland.

Both the Ulster GAA and the Irish Football Association were delivering junior training programmes across Northern Ireland which now look as though they will have to be scrapped.

It is “with deep regret” that Ulster GAA announces that its involvement with the current Curriculum Sports Programme (CSP) ended on Friday 14th December.

Since 2007, Ulster GAA, along with colleagues in the Irish Football Association, have delivered the Programme to Key Stage 1 pupils in over 500 primary schools across the North.

The demise of the CSP will result in the loss of over 20 jobs at Ulster GAA. However, Down News has learned that there will be little or no job losses at the IFA as other programmes are being sought for their existing staff into the new financial year when contracts end by the end of January. 

Commenting on the decision of Ulster GAA to terminate delivery of the programme, Ulster GAA Provincial Secretary Brian McAvoy said: “This is a serious blow to staff, pupils and schools across the north. It is bitterly disappointing to have to make staff redundant at this time but despite our best efforts to secure additional funding, Ulster GAA was left with no choice but to end our involvement with the programme.

“The current staff and those who have worked on the CSP over the last 11 years have made a lasting imprint on the lives of many children in our schools. In that time approximately 40,000 children per year have benefitted from the programme and we owe a lasting debt of gratitude to the CSP staff and to the staff in the schools in which they worked.

“In October we were advised by the Department of Education that they were unable to find any in-year funding, either from within their own department or from other departments, to allow to programme to be funded beyond 31 October 2018.

“Ulster GAA took the decision to fund the CSP from its own resources until 14 December 2018, while we continued to engage with the Department, wider government, political representatives and other statutory bodies. Regrettably, this process has not led to any additional funding being secured.

“I thank the Ulster GAA members and staff, teachers and the elected representatives from across the political spectrum for their efforts in trying to secure additional funding but unfortunately it came to no avail.

“The sad reality is that combination of reduced exchequer funding, coupled with the absence of an Executive at Stormont has ultimately resulted in the end of the CSP and this is an outcome no one wanted.”

Brian McAvoy added that Ulster GAA and the Irish Football Association are continuing to engage with the Department of Education to ascertain if a replacement programme could be put in place in the next financial year. He said that these discussions were ongoing.

Brian McAvoy said: “Ulster GAA and the Irish Football Association (IFA) have put forward a joint proposal to the Department of Education in relation to possible options for the future of the programme. These are being looked at while the Department is also exploring with us potential opportunities for a new style programme in the next financial year. However, there is still no clarity on this.

“Had there been certainty beyond April 2019 I believe that it may have been possible to put in place a package with the Association nationally that would have allowed the CSP to continue for a further period. Regrettably, in the absence of any firm commitments at this stage this option could not be progressed in a meaningful way.”