Belfast Telegraph

Providing a Windsor Park to be proud of

By Steven Beacom

Delivering a new national stadium is one of the key aims of the IFA's Strategic Plan...Here's what the IFA say about it and what we think

IFA say: The £29.2million redevelopment of Windsor Park into a state of the art 18,000 seat National Stadium will be more than a new ground for the national team. It will be a new home for the Irish FA; a new conference facility for the city of Belfast; and provide new social and recreational facilities to local communities.

We say: Firstly, praise the Lord that the new Windsor is going to be built. There was a period when the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) were threatening to withdraw the funding after David Martin made a controversial return to the IFA as Deputy President. Previously he had been forced out by government and had failed suitability tests when trying to return to senior office at the IFA. DCAL and the IFA appear to have resolved their differences on that issue and the building work at Windsor will start early next year and by 2015 we should have a completed stadium we can feel extremely proud about.

IFA say: A further £36.2 million investment will be open to bids from individual clubs and consortia across Northern Ireland for community and social cohesion projects, or to develop their clubs into community "beacons" with their facilities opened up for use by local communities, or as part of a social enterprise. Working with DCAL, the IFA will oversee a process to assess and designate funding.

We say: This could open a can of worms. Basically, Irish League clubs will bid for millions to be invested in their grounds. Some will end up happy, some not. Yesterday, IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson had to deny reports that the governing body had proposed to give a £10 million grant to Glentoran to fund the Oval club's new stadium plans. It's fantastic to have money to develop stadia here, but the IFA will have to choose carefully who deserve it most. It's worth pointing out that by making a mess of the selection process, the IFA run the risk of putting future funding from the government at risk. Remember, the Northern Ireland Executive doesn't have money to burn.

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