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'Extra time' for supporters as city finds alternative big screen fanzone

Published 23/06/2016

An alternative fanzone has been set up for football supporters in Belfast so they can follow the fortunes of Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland in the knock-out stages of Euro 2016

A fanzone furore that left football supporters in Belfast fearing the loss of a big screen venue for this weekend's Euro 2016 matches has been resolved.

An outdoor fanzone in the city's Titanic Quarter proved extremely popular during the group stages of the championships, with thousands packing the venue for the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland matches.

But both teams' unexpected progression to the last 16 of the tournament presented a headache for the organisers, who are hosting the Belsonic music festival at the same place at the weekend.

Keen to avoid netting an own goal with supporters, city councillors have now agreed to set up an alternative fanzone in Belfast.

The Boucher Road playing fields, close to the national football stadium at Windsor Park, will provide the backdrop for the screening of Northern Ireland's clash with Wales on Saturday and the Republic of Ireland's game against France the following day.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston said: "The fanzone at Titanic Quarter, operated by the organisers of the Belsonic festival, was a terrific success during the qualifying round. However, as it was known that the Titanic site would not be available past the qualifying rounds, the Council was working behind the scenes to identify a suitable alternative site.

"Boucher Road is a great site, accessible to all parts of the city, and beyond. By locating the fanzone here, the council is ensuring as many fans as possible get the chance to continue to demonstrate their phenomenal support for both teams as they enter this crucial knock-out stage."

An estimated 13,000 gathered around the giant screen to watch Northern Ireland play Germany on Tuesday.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were involved in the hasty discussions to secure a suitable alternative to the Titanic venue.

Mrs Foster welcomed the announcement by the council.

"I am very pleased there is a resolution," she said.

"That will be good news for all the fans who have been so faithful in relation to supporting their teams."

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