On Monday 14th December 2015, the UK’s largest leisure charitable social enterprise GLL launched its athlete support programme the ‘GLL Sport Foundation’ (GSF) at Belfast City Council’s annual Sports Development Conference.

This programme will complement and work in partnership with the existing athlete support framework that operates across Belfast to support athletes across the city to achieve their sporting goals.  These core partners are Belfast City Council and The Mary Peters Trust.  Sport NI is supportive of the programme and welcomes any opportunities for talented athletes to access support for their training and competition programmes

The GSF is the largest independent athlete support programme in the UK and has a positive track record in supporting athletes. In 2015, GSF supported 1700 athletes across 105 sporting disciplines and with over 90% of award recipients receiving no other centralised funding support the programme is focussed on supporting athletes with the right support at the right time along their sporting journey.

Athletes benefit from financial awards of up to £1,250 which will support athletes’ associated travel, competition and equipment costings during the next 12 months.  Recipients will also benefit from sports performance support and training awards that allow free sporting access to more than 200 sport and leisure venues managed by GLL and partners across the UK.

With the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner, the programme is supporting athletes that will look to compete at these games including ambassadors Tom Daley, Dina Asher-Smith, Aled Davies, Lutalo Muhammad and Belfast Paralympic middle distance athlete Michael McKillop.

Michael explains the impact the programme will make to himself: “The support will go towards my training and traveling to competitions across the UK Ireland and Europe in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games”.
The programme is equally focussed on athletes that are aiming for the 2020 and 2024 Games and with over 70% of award recipients being aged under 21 the focus is on the next generation of sporting talent.

Michael further explains the impact the programme will have to the next generation of athletes: “With the help of the GLL Sport Foundation young athletes will have the opportunity to gain vital resources to be able to train and compete at competitive level. Young athletes will have access to funding training and sports science support, all of which are vital to succeed in sport”.

“I have been given the chance to be the Belfast ambassador, this allows me the opportunity to inspire and link with the next generation of athletes and making the Young athletes understand the importance of having a network of support staff around them, when it comes to competing at the highest level “If you want to Achieve you have to Believe”.

Sally Gunnell OBE, GSF Patron and former concurrent Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth 400m hurdles title holder said: “From my own experience, starting out as a young athlete and progressing through my sport, I understand how important support from the Foundation is to the realisation of sporting ambitions.  Through the programme we are providing the next generation of athletes with tangible support to make a real difference to their sporting journeys”.

GSF Chairman, Peter Bundey said: “It is crucial that we support the talent and enthusiasm of our young sporting stars. We can help young athletes bridge the difficult leap from regional to national and international level as they start to become ready for senior competition”.

“We are delighted to work in partnership with The Mary Peters Trust, who provide vital links between us and national governing bodies of sport. Working with them ensures that our funding becomes part of the national talent development programmes, which is important for all sports and young sporting talent”.

Dame Mary Peters, Patron of The Mary Peters Trust states the benefit the partnership will bring to Belfast athletes “Having a partner like the GLL Sport Foundation means that we are able to fund more young athletes, this will help us create our future Northern Ireland sporting champions”.

The GSF was launched in 2008 by Sally Gunnell at the House of Commons.  Since then, the programme has provided over 8700 athlete awards with support worth over £4.9million to athletes across, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To be eligible for a grant, young sportsmen and women must live or be in education in a partnership where GLL or its partners operate; or be affiliated to a sports club that has a training base at a GLL or partner operated sport and leisure venue.

To find out further details of the scheme and apply please go to the GSF website at  Applications for 2016 awards are open from 20th December 2015 and close 20th February 2016.