Belfast Telegraph

Bid to attract World Rally Championship to Northern Ireland revealed

Tourism Northern Ireland chief John McGrillen
Tourism Northern Ireland chief John McGrillen
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A round of the World Rally Championship could follow The Open Golf Championship as the next major sporting event to be hosted here.

Tourism Northern Ireland chief John McGrillen confirmed that talks are under way about hosting the prestigious international event in 2020.

Mr McGrillen was responding to a question from DUP MP Ian Paisley during an appearance at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday.

The confirmation comes after months of speculation about the event coming here from Wales.

Mr Paisley had previously aired concerns at the committee about what he saw as a lack of plans for Northern Ireland following The Open Golf Championship at Royal Portrush next month.

However, he had also noted that "World Rally Championship promoter Oliver Ciesla is basically inviting his event to Northern Ireland".

"Rallying's equivalent of Formula One say, they want to bring it here and we need to keep attracting these types of events, but unless there is a strategy in place, then we risk missing out on some wonderful opportunities," Mr Paisley said previously.

Mr Ciesla confirmed his organisation is keen on the move. "We have been pushing for change and we are hopeful this can be achieved in the next year already," he said.

"Is a move to Northern Ireland key? Yes. I would say it is key.

"Northern Ireland is of interest.

"I don't want to say this is necessarily a long-term plan.

"But to go for a while or once could be an interesting variation."

Mr McGrillen confirmed there are talks with World Rally organisers.

"Well it certainly is a potential, as are a number of other events we are talking to promoters about," he told the committee.

"When we get a submission, the first thing we ask the promoter to do is give us the evidence which allows us to make the case for investment in that particular event.

"As I understand it, we are in the process of gathering information from those people you have been speaking to (World Rally), we are in the process of doing that at the moment and once we have sufficient evidence to suggest that is a project that can really deliver for Northern Ireland, we will make that case to the department."

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