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No way out of Windsor deal for IFA: Blues

By Stuart McKinley

Linfield remain adamant the Irish Football Association has no get-out from the 104-year lease agreement for Windsor Park.

And the Irish Premier League champions have accused the governing body of trying to break the contract on false grounds that were made in bad faith.

The club's writ, which was issued last week in response to the IFA's wish to terminate the contract for the use of the ground, was heard in the high court yesterday.

The terms of that agreement, signed in 1984 and under which all senior Northern Ireland internationals are to be played at the ground until 2087, state that Linfield are responsible for ensuring that Windsor Park, its stands, offices and accommodation and its fixtures and fittings thereon and therein are in good order, repair and condition.

After an initial letter was sent in July this year, the IFA again wrote to Linfield in September stating their wish to terminate the contract with six months notice claiming their grounds to do so were, 'by virtue of the fact that Windsor Park has not been maintained in good order, repair or condition,' allegations that the club have continuously and strenuously denied.

In their response, Linfield denied the IFA's allegations and requested the IFA itemise how, precisely, Windsor Park was not in good order, repair or condition.

In addition, Linfield have 'denied each and every allegation appearing in the letter of September 2007 and that the IFA is entitled to terminate the 1984 agreement, either on the grounds alleged, or not at all.'

The Blues also hit back by stating that international matches have been hosted at Windsor Park in March and August this year and that an inspection of the stadium, which the IFA said would be carried out no later than August 10, 2007 never took place and that an international game took place there less than two weeks later.

A further international is scheduled for this year, against Denmark on November 17, which the IFA plan to be the last under the current agreement.

Where the Northern Ireland team plays their home matches after that is anyone's guess, with the prospect of a National Stadium no closer and, despite that, Linfield claim the IFA's wish to move to a new stadium is one of the reasons behind their move to terminate the deal.

'Linfield will further state that the grounds on which the IFA has purported to terminate the 1984 agreement are false and are made in bad faith, in order that: (a) the IFA's desire to build a National Stadium and so fulfil its commitment to work with the government to deliver a new multi-purpose stadium without lawfully compensating Linfield for the termination of the 1984 agreement. (b) the IFA can prepare a joint bid to co-host the UEFA Under-21 Championship finals in 2011, which requires an additional 20,000-plus capacity stadium. (c) the IFA can solely obtain and use SKY TV contract monies, which may be available from January 2008.

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