Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 20 November 2014

Historic part of Ravenhill will live on at Cliftonville

Ulster stand up for Cliftonville

The old Grandstand at Ravenhill

Cliftonville fans will watch the biggest match in the club's history from seats that were retrieved from the famous old Main Stand at Ravenhill, which has just been demolished.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that Ulster Rugby have reached hands across the sporting divide to provide the Reds with 800 seats from the iconic stand at their east-Belfast home and they will now be installed at Solitude in time for their glamour Champions League meeting against Celtic.

Cliftonville will pay £1 each for the seats, which Ulster Rugby will, in turn, donate to suicide awareness charity PIPS Programmes.

Originally Cliftonville hadn't planned to put spectators into their main stand at Solitude for their European fixture as it is now largely unused, but that all changed once the draw handed them a plum tie with the Scottish champions next Wednesday.

That plunged the north Belfast club into a race against time to have seats put into half of the stand to replace wooden benches in order to meet strict Uefa regulations.

Ulster Rugby were happy to help out after Cliftonville previously offered them Solitude for training ahead of their Heineken Cup quarter-final with Saracens in April, when it looked at one stage like the match may be played on an artificial surface.

All of the original 2,500 tickets for the Cliftonville v Celtic match were sold by Saturday lunchtime, but the Irish League champions were yesterday given approval by Uefa to install additional, temporary seating, on the waterworks side of the ground which will provide around 1,000 extra seats.

That will help to add to the bumper pay day that the Reds will enjoy, with income from tickets and television cash expected to see the £120,000 windfall from Uefa almost double.

Those are expected to be snapped-up by fans who were given priority vouchers when they queued up in vain for the first batch of tickets before they sold out.

"Following communication with Uefa, Cliftonville Football Club has received correspondence permitting the installation of additional seating at Solitude for the Champions League second qualifying round first leg tie with Celtic on Wednesday, July 17," said a club statement.

"This augmentation of capacity will result in an increased ticket allocation for both clubs and a further announcement will be made in due course."

Cliftonville aren't the only club to be given seats from the old Ravenhill stand. Amateur League side Abbey Villa picked up 200 of the seats, while £3,762 was raised for PIPS – the charity chosen by building contractors Gilbert Ash, who are undertaking the Ravenhill rebuild – from fans who were offered the chance to buy a seat.

One has been signed by the Ulster team and will be auctioned in aid of the Neonatal unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The 90-year-old Grandstand at Ravenhill has now been flattened as work begins on a new all-seater structure, backed by DCAL cash.

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