Belfast Telegraph

New Windsor Park lease deal close

Football chiefs are poised to seal a new lease for Windsor Park ahead of the stadium's £30 million redevelopment.

The Irish Football Association and venue owners Linfield FC have agreed to scrap the current 100-year contract that saw the Irish League club receive 15% of gate receipts from international matches, Assembly members were told.

Both sides are appointing lawyers to close the re-negotiated deal which will see the IFA commit to stay at the stadium for 40 years on more favourable financial terms.

IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson told the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee a subsidiary management company would now operate the stadium and lease it back to Linfield to use for its home games.

"We have an agreement with Linfield to change the current contract into a new agreement where the IFA, through a subsidiary stadium management company, will take a 40-year lease and will operate and manage it through that period and through a leaseback will allow Linfield to play their games there," he said.

The chief executive also told MLAs changes to the association's governance arrangements required by the government had been agreed by board members and were due to go before a full IFA meeting for ratification next month.

He also revealed he has had preliminary discussions with music promoters that could see 20,000 capacity concerts staged at the rebuilt venue.

The long-term contract with Linfield had been cited as a serious restriction on the IFA's ability to generate revenue. It was signed over 20 years ago and still had around 80 years to run.

Mr Nelson said the IFA intended to appoint a team of lawyers to draw up the new contract in the coming weeks. He, and IFA president Jim Shaw and chairman Leslie Caul were giving evidence to committee members on progress on the Windsor Park project.

The Government has pledged £25.2 million to fund the redevelopment with the IFA committing an additional £4 million. It will see the capacity of the south Belfast venue increased from 15,000 to 18,000 by rebuilding the south and east stands and redeveloping the other two.

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