The company behind a controversial plan to develop a gas storage facility under Larne Lough this week announced a sponsorship deal with Islandmagee Football Club.
Islandmagee Energy has entered into a long term partnership with the club initially improving and maintaining their home ground, Wilbourne Park.
It is believed to be the first link up with a local community group by the firm, which has promised a £1million fund that will be allocated to various good causes.
Judith Tweed, director of Islandmagee Energy, said: “We really want to be part of the community and backing Islandmagee FC is just one way we will be doing that. It was a very proud moment to see the new sign going up at Wilbourne Park with Islandmagee Energy on it. Everyone on the island can benefit from improving the football club’s grounds.
“It is very important to us to secure the future of facilities like Islandmagee FC, and as such once the gas storage project is up and running there will be a community benefit fund totalling £1million over the life of the project.”
Alan Wilson, of Islandmagee FC, said: “Everyone at the club is really excited to be welcoming Islandmagee Energy as a sponsor. We’ve been able to make some great improvements to the ground already – we’ve had the hedges trimmed, the fence painted and new banners up.
“The next stage will be to have a shelter built, helping us meet the requirements of the league and helping us to keep spectators coming back week after week. It’s been a long time since the club has received this kind of help and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
The proposed development of a facility to store 450million cubic metres of natural gas, which would be fed into the grid at times of increased demand, has been strongly opposed by campaigners who alleged it has the potential “to change our whole coastline”.
Work is expected to start on the site next year and will employ 400 people during construction and 40 once it is fully operational.
Islandmagee Energy’s parent company, InfraStrata, recently bought Harland & Wolff and will use the Belfast site to fabricate many of the components for the gas storage project.