30/09/2010

Sports Minister Aims For £110m 'Goal'

Funding that has been earmarked for a massive sports stadia rebuilding scheme may not be released yet, as it has emerged there are still ongoing problems at the Irish Football Association (IFA) to be resolved.

Sports Minister Nelson McCausland has this week reiterated his call for an independent review of the IFA and warned that cash for redevelopment would be withheld until its completion.

At present, rugby, GAA and soccer are all waiting for multi-million pound grants to improve their respective stadia but the Minister now says the cash would not be released to rugby and GAA alone.

That's despite reports suggesting that he would provide money to the two sports and wait until the IFA review was completed before Windsor Park soccer ground is given the 'green light'.

Yesterday, there were high hopes that it could give NI's construction sector a fillip should the proposed £110m package of sports stadia developments be finally agreed.

The Stormont Executive has already axed proposals for a single multi-sports venue for football, rugby and gaelic games at the site of the former prison at the Maze outside Lisburn.

The long awaited multi-million pound redevelopment of Windsor Park, Casement Park and Ravenhill is instead now inching towards approval by the NI Sports Minister Nelson McCausland, (pictured).

The proposal will be presented to the Stormont Culture Arts and Leisure Committee to include a redeveloped Windsor Park with an increased capacity of 18,000.
News Image
The GAA venue Casement Park in west Belfast will then be razed to the ground and rebuilt with a maximum capacity of 40,000 and in rugby, Ravenhill developed to accommodate 15,000 spectators.

After the Maze was rejected, other possible venues for a new football stadium in east Belfast and in Ormeau Park near the city centre were suggested, but after the Irish Football Association (IFA) decided to stay at Windsor Park - which it currently rents from Irish Premiership side Linfield for international matches - this effectively ruled out any prospect of the three main sports in the region sharing a venue.

However, agreement has been delayed because of management issues that have now been resolved to the Minister's satisfaction within the IFA Board.

Four board members' left after IFA President Raymond Kennedy was criticised in a report into the sacking of former chief executive Howard Wells.

Mr Kennedy and IFA Vice-President David Martin were among the four to have quit the association's Executive Board.

Previously, the Stormont Executive spent millions of pounds on consultancy projects and planning for the initial Maze prison proposal.

The failure had been seen as a big loss to the beleaguered building trade which had been anticipating a fillip to help lift it out of one of the worst recessions to hit the sector in decades.

But, with a national spending review expected to cut NI's overall budget in October, there remain doubts over the financing of the revised, three-way stadia project given the cutbacks that are looming.

See: IFA Heads For Chaos

See: SF Slams Minister As Maze Stadium Plans Axed

(BMcC/GK)

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