Belfast Telegraph

All far from Honky Dory as Glens fans ponder change Uncertain times for the historic Oval ground

by Chris McCann

There has been a mixed reaction among Glentoran FC fans on proposals to sell the naming rights of The Oval, its ground since 1892.

The club is inviting ‘brand interest’ in the naming rights for the stadium — which would see the old east Belfast stadium renamed in a similar way to that of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Airtricity League club Drogheda United now play at Honky Dorys Park, which was formerly United Park.

Glens fan Jim Rutherford, from Bangor, said: “The Oval will always be The Oval to me. But, the reality is there is no money in football in Northern Ireland, it’s a sad state of affairs.

“The Oval is a special place but it is not really fit for purpose anymore, and we do need to bring it up to standard.

“As long as we don’t get Ford and they brand the place blue and white. That would be a problem.”

William Kirkwood, secretary of the Fred Roberts Glentoran Supporters Club said: “I’ve mixed feelings. The club needs money and this is another way of getting the club out of financial trouble. We have to put up with it,” he said.

“Losing The Oval name will be difficult to accept, but in this day and age, money talks — especially in football.”

London-based Glentoran fan Alan Beattie, said: “In these times of recession, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. The stadium obviously has a lot of history, but this is the direction football is going now.”

Councillor Jim Rodgers, a director at Glentoran, added: “Obviously we have to see if there is any interest from companies. If there is, shareholders and supporters alike will be consulted.”

On the advertising opportunity for potential investors, he said: “Look at the volume of air traffic over the stadium — two million a year. The ground is also near the Titanic Quarter, the new Belfast Met college, the airport and Harland and Wolff. It is in a prime location.”

“Any opportunities to develop our financial needs have to be exploited,” said club director Stafford Reynolds.

“It needs to be examined to see where it might lead us in terms of new cash flows.

“Situated against the backdrop of George Best City Airport, Bombardier, Harland and Wolff, Titanic Quarter and a landmark on the busy Sydenham bypass, the Oval is a focal point for thousands of people each weekend.”

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