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Mallon: Windsor naming rights make sense for game's future

By Steven Beacom

Irish FA chairman Gerry Mallon has insisted selling the naming rights of Windsor Park is crucial to the development of Northern Ireland football in the future.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Mallon stated that the millions of pounds naming rights would generate will prove beneficial to the game for years to come.

He revealed the IFA are planning to strike a deal with a 'credible, appropriate, long-term commercial partner' which will see their name up in lights at the new 18,000-seater stadium.

That deal would last for a decade or more and be similar to the one which saw Ulster Rugby's home Ravenhill become the Kingspan Stadium.

To Mallon, Danske Bank's UK chief executive, it makes perfect economic sense. Clearly he has a valid financial point, though, there are others who will be upset at the prospect of the Windsor Park name being no more.

Even now there are those in the game, including former Linfield boss David Jeffrey, who are miffed when Irish FA officials refer to Windsor Park as the national stadium.

Mallon's response: "The name of the project is the national stadium at Windsor Park. To all intents and purposes it is a new stadium. It is a new stadium that has potential commercial value and we are interested in the issue of naming rights for the new stadium.

"We want to find a credible, appropriate, long-term commercial partner.

"There is a reason why sports organisations do these things and we at the IFA would be failing in our duty if we didn't maximise the potential for revenue. Any money that we make is re-invested in football in Northern Ireland and we have ambitious plans to develop football in Northern Ireland."

So, in time the Windsor Park name will go?

"It will be the 'something' stadium at Windsor Park," added the IFA chairman.

Asked about potential opposition, Mallon said: "People can be quite traditionalist. I still talk about Ravenhill and a lot of people do, but also people talk about the Aviva Stadium now rather than Lansdowne Road. These things take time.

"In the future we will get used to saying the SSE Arena rather than the Odyssey Arena and I don't think the National Football Stadium will be any different.

"There will always be traditionalists, but not everyone who supports Northern Ireland is emotionally attached to Windsor Park.

"And it is a reality of commercial life that there is potentially very major value attached to the naming rights."

As well as naming rights, the IFA will sell 10 corporate hospitality boxes at Windsor, each catering for between 10 and 28 people. The season ticket prices for the boxes will range from £14,150 to £24,200.

The re-construction of the stadium, thanks to £26m of government money, continues. The new ground was scheduled for completion by November this year, but won't be finished now until 2016 following the demolition of the Kop Stand due to structural problems discovered in March.

IFA president Jim Shaw has told this newspaper all will be finished by the time the World Cup qualifiers start next September. Currently the IFA are waiting for insurance issues to be dealt with in relation to the re-building of the Kop Stand.

Mallon added: "Our aspiration would be to have the stadium finished before the home San Marino World Cup qualifier in September or even earlier. The stadium will be ready as soon as we can manage it.

"I would love to think we could have an Irish Cup final at the completed stadium or international friendlies for Northern Ireland before the Euros, but all those are contingent on getting the insurance situation sorted out. I've been really impressed with the team leading the development of the stadium. They've done a fantastic job."

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