world : No Casement Park funding plan until after election

world : No Casement Park funding plan until after election
world : No Casement Park funding plan until after election

Thursday 13 June 2024 02:30 AM

Nafeza 2 world - Efforts to ensure Casement Park stadium in west Belfast is rebuilt in time for the Euro 2028 football tournament will continue even though hopes of success are fading rapidly.

Supporters of the project are clinging to the faint belief that the next UK government, after the 4 July election, might provide the necessary funding.

Northern Ireland is due to host five games in the championships but the stadium site remains derelict and redevelopment work has yet to begin.

On Wednesday evening, the Ulster GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) confirmed attempts were still being made to keep the project alive.

They say they remain “fully committed to doing everything we can in the coming weeks”.

GAA president Jarlath Burns has admitted he is “pessimistic” but has not completely written off the project.

What is clear is that, in effect, the redevelopment scheme is on hold until after next month’s election.

An Ulster GAA spokesperson said: "Following our joint letter with the Irish FA (Football Association) to the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, we have had confirmation that details of government funding will not be made available until after the UK Parliament elections on July 4.

"To keep this global and transformational opportunity alive, we are now urgently calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to collectively discuss the opportunities that Euro 2028 will create for our society, and the reputational, economic and sporting risk of losing this global event.

"We are also calling for the procurement tender documents to be released without further delay to ensure the project development remains within UEFA timelines.”

In truth, UEFA expected redevelopment work to have begun by now. Their patience is being tested.

The start of Euro 2024 in Germany this week will be their focus, but as soon as it ends, officials will be looking to Belfast to see if progress has been made.

They think it’s all over … and it probably is.

However, until UEFA formally cancels plans to stage Euro 2028 matches in Belfast, those involved in the Casement Park project are not giving up.

In the words of one GAA official: “We’re in added time of extra time, but the final whistle hasn’t gone yet.”

In spite of his pessimism, GAA president Jarlath Burns has not given up either. At a gathering in south Belfast on Wednesday night, he told the audience he enjoyed watching soccer and was an Arsenal fan.

In recent years, he has got used to high hopes being extinguished.

But, after a lifetime in sport, he also knows that some last-minute drama can never be ruled out.

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