01/10/2010

IFA Delay Hits Sports Stadia Project

Funding that has been earmarked for a massive sports stadia rebuilding scheme may not be released yet.

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.

The amount in question is thought to be as much as £23m and is being retained as the IFA has so far failed to sort out ongoing executive uncertainty.

Senior management representatives are now to face questions from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) Committee at Stormont.

Sports Minister Nelson McCausland is on record as saying that funds will only be secured if their chairman stands down and he also wants an independent review of the IFA.

Chairman of DCAL, Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff said: "We want to see them all happen in a package but if one falls, the other two must not fall."

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.
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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 Minister McCausland.

The proposal includes a redeveloped Windsor Park with an increased capacity of 18,000.

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.

Agreement was delayed because of management issues that were initially thought to have been resolved to the Minister's satisfaction within the IFA Board.

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

Game-On

Meanwhile, Nelson McCausland will cheer on the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games team during his forthcoming visit to India.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Minister McCausland said: "I welcome the opportunity to visit the Games and show my support for the Northern Ireland team.

"Getting to Delhi has not been a smooth journey but our athletes have shown a determination and a focus that I hope will continue to drive them to achieve their goals in the Games."

During his visit, Minister McCausland will take the opportunity to meet with the other UK Sports Ministers to discuss sports policy across the UK as a whole.

See: Sports Minister Aims For £110m 'Goal'

(BMcC/GK)

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