Sports academy share offer a first for Northern Ireland

Tiziana O'Hara of Co-operative Alternatives with Ballymacash Sports Academy directors Chris Finlay and Laura Turner, and Nigel McKinney from the Building Change Trust at the launch the Lisburn-based sports academy's community share offer.
Tiziana O'Hara of Co-operative Alternatives with Ballymacash Sports Academy directors Chris Finlay and Laura Turner, and Nigel McKinney from the Building Change Trust at the launch the Lisburn-based sports academy's community share offer.

Members of the public are being given the chance to invest in Northern Ireland’s first community-run sports academy.

Ballymacash Sports Academy has launched a community share offer in a bid to raise money to help fund a £1.5m sports facility development at its base in Lisburn.

The academy, a co-operative born out of Ballymacash Rangers Football Club, is seeking to raise between £50,000 and £200,000 through the share offer.

Planning permission has been granted for the first phase of a five-phase project for a state-of-the-art community sports facility, including a new clubhouse, function room, gym, floodlit seven-a-side 3G artificial grass pitch, a 250 seat stand and a cryospa.

The ambitious project will be part financed by the community share offer, which will enable the public to invest in the new academy and have a say in its running - a first for Northern Ireland, but similar to models already used by some sports clubs in Great Britain.

Investors can buy into the project for as little as £50, or purchase up to a maximum of £10,000 worth of shares.

Share applications can be made online by contacting info@ballymacashsportsacademy.org until July 19.

Philip Trimble, one of the Sports Academy directors, said the aim is to provide high quality facilities for the whole community, with a focus on encouraging the young, the elderly and the economically disadvantaged to participate more in healthy activities.

“Since forming in 1984 the football club has been at the heart of the local community. We have identified a need for better sporting and leisure facilities in the area to provide a greater sense of community and ensure that people are given access to a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle,” he said.

“We have significant community support for these plans so there are exciting times ahead for Ballymacash. The local community has always supported events at the club so there is already considerable buy-in for our vision of the future.

“Our desire is to have a range of sports accessing the facilities and we are planning to set up a bursary scheme that will be accessible for talented young sport stars from a wide spectrum of sports.”

The share offer was launched with the help of the Building Change Trust’s Community Shares Ready! Programme run by Co-operative Alternatives, an organisation set up in Northern Ireland to promote and raise awareness of co-operatives and community benefit societies.

The Trust’s Director of Operations, Nigel McKinney said: “Despite our long history of producer and consumer cooperatives, the community-owned cooperative enterprise model remains quite novel in Northern Ireland. But it’s a brilliant model for our times – local people owning a community enterprise that brings benefits to the wider community.

“I want to commend Ballymacash Rangers Football Club for their vision and Cooperative Alternatives for their support in bringing another community share offer forward.”

Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative Alternatives said sports clubs and organisations in England and Wales have become highly successful co-operatives and believes the formula will work in Northern Ireland.

“Many people want a say in how leisure and sports facilities operating in their area are run for the benefit of everyone.

“Ballymacash has a proud history of working on community-based projects and we would appeal for everyone who has an interest in a better future for all to become involved in the running of this incredible organisation,” she said.

Ballymacash Sports Academy is working with a number of partner organisations on the proposed development at the five-acre site in north Lisburn, including Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Ballymacash Regeneration Network, Work West Enterprise Agency, the IFA Small Sided Games, Parkview Special School and the Resurgam Trust.