Belfast Telegraph

Windsor Park stand to be bulldozed

The damaged West Stand at the Northern Ireland football team's home ground is to be demolished within eight weeks, a senior official has said.

The Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania at Windsor Park in Belfast will go ahead on June 13.

Irish Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson made the announcement about the demolition.

Cracks were discovered in the stand following Northern Ireland's game against Finland last month.

Mr Nelson said: "Naturally it is sad that we are having to resolve the West Stand issues in this manner, however the project team has worked tirelessly over the past three weeks to develop a plan which will enable us to play Romania in our own home in eight weeks' time.

"Now the decision has been made, the focus turns to delivery. We will keep in close touch with Uefa and the relevant safety authorities to ensure that they are fully aware of, and in agreement with, our plans."

He said the 10,000 capacity for the Romania fixture would be met for the game by accelerating work on the East Stand, South East Quadrant, and South Stand.

The cause of the problem with the West Stand is not yet known.

It was filled to capacity with Northern Ireland fans for the victory over Finland. Even though health and safety experts approved it ahead of that fixture, afterwards cracks were spotted and investigations began.

The demolition recommendation came after a series of meetings with all interested parties which considered all the available evidence and following the review of a structural engineer's report which was received towards the end of last week. Preparation for this work will begin immediately, the IFA said.

Michael O'Neill, Northern Ireland senior international team manager, added: "I attended the meetings on Friday and was impressed by the attention to detail in the plan put forward by the project team.

"I now look forward to the Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania in June being played at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park."

Martin Lennon, general manager of stadium developers O'Hare McGovern, said thousands of extra seats were being transported to the South Belfast ground.

"We are accelerating work to the East and South stands to ensure it accommodates the number of people required."

He said much of his firm's contract to refurbish the stadium would not be affected as it already envisaged measures like removing the roof. Some work will be the subject of further negotiation with the IFA.

South Belfast DUP Westminster candidate Jonathan Bell said the focus should be on Northern Ireland's qualification for Euro 2016.

"It is obviously vital that the demolition work commences as soon as possible, but sitting just a point behind Romania who lead Group F, having the crowd and atmosphere of Windsor Park could be vital."


From Belfast Telegraph