Sport Northern Ireland is celebrating the launch of a new £4m National Lottery funded programme, aiming to increase participation in sports clubs.

Sports organisations and governing bodies can apply for funding under Sport Northern Ireland’s ‘Active Clubs’ Programme, which will run over the next four years, providing support, development courses and capacity building to sports clubs and assisting them with developing new and innovative initiatives aimed at increasing their club membership and the development of the coaching and volunteer base within clubs.

By creating a network of Active Clubs Coordinators, the programme will also provide an economic boost by creating employment for just under 20 new posts.

Increasing club membership, especially among underrepresented groups, is one of the main aims of the programme, as well as delivering social change by promoting equality and tackling poverty and social exclusion.

Launching the Active Clubs programme, Sport Northern Ireland’s Chief Executive, Antoinette McKeown, said: “Sport Northern Ireland has enjoyed huge success from its Active Communities programme, with almost 1 million people engaged in sport. Active Clubs will sustain and build participation through linking people to sporting clubs.

Our thriving and inclusive sports clubs are the bedrock upon which sporting success and high performing athletes are based and I am delighted that our ‘Active Clubs’ programme will focus on providing them with the support they need in order to develop their skills and initiatives!”

Also in attendance at the launch was Sport Northern Ireland Sporting Ambassador and All-Ireland Handball Champion Aisling Reilly who welcomed announcement saying: “The support to be gained for athletes and teams through the club network, from coaching to a range of support pathways is invaluable to enhanced sporting performance. This is a very positive announcement and I would encourage all eligible organisations to apply.”