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Euro 2016: Grounds of Belfast City Hall set to screen Northern Ireland's qualifier

By Rebecca Black

Published 17/09/2015

A family watching rugby on the big screen
A family watching rugby on the big screen
Belfast City Hall
Northern Ireland hero Kyle Lafferty

Talks are under way to show Northern Ireland's historic battle to qualify for Euro 2016 on the Big Screen at Belfast City Hall - in front of 6,000 fans.

If approved by Belfast City Council, the lucky fans will be admitted to the grounds of our best known municipal building to cheer the side on in the crucial ties next month.

It will be the first time Belfast will have hosted such an outdoor football party.

The plan came about due to the temporary capacity restrictions at Windsor Park where the first of the qualifying matches against Greece will be played on October 8. Just 10,500 fans secured tickets to watch the match in the stadium. Now a further 6,000 fans could be watching it together in the grounds of City Hall.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that Irish Football Association chief Patrick Nelson wrote to the council last week requesting that the Greek match be shown on the big screen.

"As you may be aware the Northern Ireland national team are currently sitting top of Group F and if we get two points from our last two matches in October we will make history and qualify for Uefa Euro 2016 championship," he wrote.

"This is a tremendous position for a country the size of ours."

He went on to write that a recent independent survey of 1,000 people across Northern Ireland found 71% of the population felt that qualifying for a major tournament would help unite the people of Northern Ireland.

"I believe if we qualify for a major tournament it will support one of your aims which is to make a real difference to communities on a daily basis ensuring that Belfast is an attractive place in which to live, work, invest and visit," he wrote.

"We want to capitalise on this and get the people of Northern Ireland behind our team.

"The National Football Stadium is still under construction and our capacity is restricted to circa 10,500 - we have already sold out!

"In an effort to engage the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland we would like to show the Northern Ireland v Greece match on October 8 live at the City Hall."

Mr Nelson said they would like to see 5,000 to 6,000 fans accommodated in the grounds of City Hall to see the match on the big screen. He stated a preference for the event to be free with tickets allocated through Ticketmaster. However, he added if the costs were significant they would be open to looking at a "nominal ticket price".

The letter concluded: "Thursday, October 8 could be a moment in history that we as a country can build on, not just through football but by giving the people of NI something to unite behind."

If Northern Ireland fail to qualify through the Greek match, the IFA will seek to have the away clash with Finland shown live on the Big Screen too.

The request will be discussed at the council's Strategic Policy and Resources committee tomorrow.

If approved, it will have to be formally voted through at the full meeting of the council on October 1 - just a week before the Greek match takes place.

The IFA had hoped to make the event free of charge, however it is understood that there may be what has been described as a "nominal charge" for tickets due to the steep £25,000 it will cost City Hall to put the event on.

Council minutes reveal the bulk of this cost is due to Sky broadcast rights and will also cover an additional second screen, stewarding, amenities, health and safety and security.

The Big Screen, set in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, was launched in 2011, and has been used to screen several major events such as the 2012 London Olympics, the Giro d'Italia, Six Nations' Rugby, Wimbledon Finals, FIFA World Cup and golf. It has also shown films and live opera.

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