Belfast Telegraph

Ravenhill can point way for local football luddites

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

With Jim Gracey

Protective headgear being in vogue this time of year, I donned the construction variety for a hard hat tour of the new Ravenhill.

It was, quite literally, an education and the first lesson needs to be learned by the Luddites of local football threatening a similar golden opportunity for their game that goes way beyond short-sighted and selfish agendas.

Two impressive new stands have arisen at the War Memorial and Aquinas ends... and when the third main grandstand is complete next year, Ravenhill will have a fitting, 18,000-capacity, edifice to a game going from strength to strength in Ulster.

But there is more to Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín's £120m vision for Ravenhill, Casement and Windsor, than sporting excellence.

I noted the 120 building jobs created at Ravenhill in the recession's worst-hit industry, including eight new apprenticeships from the local area, as stipulated by the Minister.

Another requires educational facilities be provided so that every school in Northern Ireland can learn first hand on field trips to the three venues, the importance of fitness and healthy lifestyles.

All that could be lost to football, Windsor and the wider community in a petty squabble over who gets what.

Crusaders have led the legal charge, with less conspicuous vested interests hidden behind their skirts. There are indeed questions in relation to football funding that require answers but the place to seek those is in a football committee room and not a courtroom with the cost that entails.

The Hatchetmen have rattled their sabres and now, for the greater good, they must scabbard them. A tour of the new Ravenhill ought to morally convince them.. and if it doesn't, they need their hard-hatted heads banged together.

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