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Northern Ireland fans cry foul as plans to show Greece and Finland matches on Belfast's big screen are cancelled

Plans to show key Euro 2016 clashes on big screen called off due to cost

By Rebecca Black

Published 26/09/2015

A large crowd gathered in the Belfast City Hall grounds to watch opera Tosca live on the big screen in July 2013
A large crowd gathered in the Belfast City Hall grounds to watch opera Tosca live on the big screen in July 2013

Plans to have Northern Ireland's remaining Euro 2016 qualifying matches shown live on the big screen at Belfast City Hall have been cancelled due to cost.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed the proposals for live relays of the clashes with Greece and Finland on the big screen.

The Irish Football Association applied to Belfast City Council to screen the matches at a free ticketed event in the grounds of the City Hall for 6,000 fans.

The IFA agreed to a "nominal charge" after City Council chiefs estimated the screenings would cost £25,000 to put on.

Much of this sum was due to football broadcasting rights.

Belfast City Council had been due to vote on the plan next Thursday during its September monthly meeting, but yesterday the IFA announced it had withdrawn its application.

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said the cost of putting the matches on the big screen was "prohibitive" - but also announced 1,500 extra tickets for supporters for the clash with Greece, which will be played at Windsor Park.

"After consulting with commercial partners, as well as Belfast City Council, it quickly became apparent that the costs involved in putting on such an event were prohibitive.

"And, in any case, we now have 1,500 extra tickets available for supporters to see the game live," he said.

Capacity at Windsor Park in Belfast has been reduced considerably for recent Uefa Euro 2016 qualifiers due to the redevelopment of the stadium.

However, Mr Nelson said the IFA and the building contractor, O'Hare & McGovern, had worked "tirelessly" to make more seats available for the Greece game on Thursday, October 8. Last month's home game against Hungary had an attendance of 10,200.

But the capacity has now risen to 11,700 for the match against the Greeks.

Northern Ireland fans expressed disappointment online at the news.

Alan Simpson posted on the Belfast Telegraph's Facebook page: "Everywhere else has a big screen up for their teams' big games, why not us? It would have been an amazing atmosphere."

Another fan, David Bisset, suggested putting the match on a big screen at another football stadium.

"I realise it's not ideal, but what about a big screen inside the like of The Oval or even Seaview? That way crowd control could be better inside another stadium if that's what they were worried about," he said.

The extra tickets for the Greece fixture will only go to fans on the IFA's mailing list, who will be sent a priority link to purchase them. Fans can sign up at www.irishfa.com/mailinglist.

Tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis from 10am on Thursday, October 1. Tickets will be limited to two per applicant/transaction. They are priced £40 each and are subject to a Ticketmaster booking fee.

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