Belfast Telegraph

Fans deserve the full story not just the half, Nelson

By Steven Beacom

First the bouquets... well done to the Irish FA and the construction firm O'Hare and McGovern. They were up against the clock and sprinted home to win the race.

Northern Ireland's vital Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Romania on Saturday will take place at Windsor Park and in front of 10,000 supporters.

When it emerged that the Kop Stand inside the stadium would have to be demolished due to cracks in its structure, there were fears that the match would have to take place elsewhere.

The IFA took a stand - so to speak - and declared that they, along with the help of the builders, would move heaven, earth and thousands of seats across the globe to ensure the qualifier went ahead as planned at the venue of choice.

With the Kop out of commission, work had to be accelerated on other areas of the ground to take the capacity up to the required 10,000.

In the two months that followed, 4,000 seats were shipped and airfreighted from China, 240 men worked through the day and night and the old Railway Stand was filled with 3,000 spanking brand new blue, white and green seats with the old South Stand taking in the other 1,000.

Good going.

When the Northern Ireland fans enter Windsor on Saturday night they will be impressed by what they see opposite the Kop.

And the new East Stand, as it will be called, apparently has a 'better decibel rating' than the Kop because it is a more modern structure. Well, according to Martin Rooney, General Manager of O'Hare and McGovern anyway.

The new surroundings will do well to match the atmosphere on March 29 when 4,000 jubilant fans in the Kop were 'doing the bouncy' as Northern Ireland beat Finland to move closer to the Euro 2016 finals.

Only a couple of days later it emerged there were cracks in the structure of the Kop.

How fortunate that every single supporter got out of there without injury or worse. It is no exaggeration to say one of the biggest sporting disasters could have occurred on our doorstep.

I believe those football fans and the wider public deserve answers. That's why so many people were angered recently when the IFA stated they would not reveal who or what was at fault for the structural problems at the Kop.

Yesterday at Windsor, I put the question to IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson, in the new spirit of transparency in football, with everything going on at Fifa, surely he would inform the fans what went wrong.

His answer: "In the end it will become clear what happened to the West (Kop) Stand but at this point insurers are still debating it."

My reply: "So, you will make a statement then?"

His reply: "It will become obvious in due course and the time will come when everyone understands what happened."

I hope it does. The supporters have a right to know.

Belfast Telegraph


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