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Windsor upgrade would disadvantage other clubs, court told

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Northern Ireland's David Healy during Wednesday night's World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park, Belfast

Northern Ireland's David Healy during Wednesday night's World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park, Belfast

Northern Ireland's David Healy during Wednesday night's World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park, Belfast

A government-funded £25m upgrade to Windsor Park would hand Northern Ireland's most financially powerful football club an unfair advantage and extend its dominance, the High Court has heard.

Linfield's domestic rivals – and even opponents in cross-border competitions – would be disadvantaged by redeveloping the national stadium the Belfast club owns, a judge was told. Another Irish League side, Crusaders, is seeking to block the proposed scheme, claiming it amounts to unlawful state aid.

But lawyers for both the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and Irish Football Association argued the challenge is premature and should be kicked out. Mr Justice Treacy will rule today on whether the case can proceed.

According to Crusaders, the upgrade breaches European Union competition laws.

The Windsor Park redevelopment is part of a plan that also includes the Ulster rugby ground at Ravenhill and the GAA's Casement Park.

A total of £110m has been set aside for the three building projects by the Executive.

The club claims funding the Windsor Park project is a clear example of state aid for two private entities – the IFA and Linfield. It argues the proposals would create unfair revenue streams as well as superior facilities at the south Belfast ground.

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Applying for leave to seek a judicial review, Crusaders' barrister Peter Girvan told the court: "Linfield have significant market power already, if not a dominant position. Is there an effect on the competition? We say yes, there's a competitive disadvantage to Linfield's direct competitors."

Mr Justice Treacy said he wanted to look at some documents before deciding whether to grant leave to seek a judicial review.


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