Plans have been unveiled for Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team to move to a full-time set-up ahead of the Euro 2022 finals next summer.
The planned move would see NI shift to a full-time status from January.
The Euro 2022 finals in England will be a first-ever major tournament for NI’s senior women.
The majority of Kenny Shiels’ squad play domestically in the Women’s Premiership and balance football with studies or work.
The proposal was presented to MLAs and Ministers at Stormont on Tuesday at a reception entitled ‘A New Dream’. MLAs from the DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP, SDLP, Alliance and Green Party spoke at the event to give their backing to the plans.
Northern Ireland captain Marissa Callaghan said it was “very special” to get the support of Stormont.
Julie Nelson, the most-capped player for the women’s senior team, delivered a short speech outlining how transformative the move will be.
“We are on the cusp of something really exciting. Qualifying for the Euros really is a new dream,” said Nelson.
“We know that football can inspire people of all ages and this Northern Ireland team has the potential to inspire a new generation of fans and players. Many of the people in the room can help us realise that potential.”
Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said the association will talk to Ministers and MLAs in the coming weeks to further develop the plans.
IFA president Conrad Kirkwood gave his support to the proposal, stating: “The remarkable story of our senior women’s international team has been well documented: part-time footballers who defied all the odds to achieve what many people simply didn’t think was possible – a spot at the UEFA Women’s Euros next year.
“The football community in Northern Ireland is excited about women’s football and we at the Irish FA are really excited, too.”