Belfast Telegraph

IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson stands his ground on Windsor Park

We ask the questions you wanted answered... but you may be surprised by some of Patrick Nelson's responses

By Steven Beacom

So, as we have said all along, the Kop stand at Windsor Park is going to have to come down and a new one built. As revealed in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday the preliminary structural report received by the IFA on Wednesday advised the end was nigh and that the Kop had to demolished.

Frustrated by the situation, Northern Ireland supporters have inundated this newspaper with requests for a proper interview and answers from IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson about what is happening with the Kop and where the Euro 2016 qualifier with Romania will be staged. Here's that interview:

STEVEN BEACOM: What's the latest news on the Kop stand at Windsor Park?

PATRICK NELSON: We have the preliminary report from structural engineers and as soon as we are able to do something with it we will move from there.

SB: Will there be other reports on the way?

PN: One would imagine so. Let's see.

SB: Have you read the report yet?

PN: Yes.

SB: What does it say?

PN: Steven, I'm not going to talk about the report at the moment. It is a complex report and it takes time to digest and we'll sit down and decide where we go next based on what we have read so far.

SB: Since the structural problems emerged at Windsor Park, the Belfast Telegraph have been consistent all along saying the Kop Stand would come down. In Wednesday's Belfast Telegraph I wrote that having received the preliminary report my understanding was that the existing Kop stand would have to be replaced. You can confirm that?

PN: I'm not going to say anything on that. I'm not going to comment on anything on the report. We received the report on Wednesday and we'll study it and take whatever action we need to in due course.

SB: If I said to you the Irish FA have been advised to demolish the Kop in the preliminary report what would you say to that?

PN: All I have is a report. We got the report yesterday and that's where we are.

SB: Okay then, in terms of the Kingspan stadium as an alternative, now that you have the report have you been in touch with Ulster Rugby to use their stadium for Northern Ireland's Euro qualifier at home to Romania on June 13?

PN: We are focused on Plan A at the moment which is to play the game at Windsor Park.

SB: Surely you should be considering Plan B. Would it not be a good idea to get in touch with Ulster Rugby and at least prepare the ground if you have to take the Romania match away from Windsor.

PN: I'll leave you to speculate on that sort of stuff, Steven. What we are focused on at the moment is working through the report and taking the actions we need to. We are focused on the national stadium.

SB: But you must admit it would take Ulster Rugby time to organise staging the game?

PN: Anywhere needs time, planning and thinking. The national stadium needs time, planning and thinking.

SB: Are you aware that work is due to start on the pitch at the Kingspan stadium after the Pro 12 final?

PN: That wouldn't surprise me. I have worked in professional sporting environments before and that would be normal.

SB: But I would think they could hold off on that work for a couple of weeks if you asked them to do so just in case you need the pitch for the Euro qualifier?

PN: We are focused on the national stadium at the moment. If we need to focus elsewhere we will.

SB: Who is at fault for what has happened to the Kop?

PN: Again Steven, we have a report and we are working through that and we will see what it says for all of us in the end.

SB: Who are all the parties involved in this?

PN: The IFA is involved because we are re-building the national stadium. Belfast City Council have a project which is to re-build Olympia nearby and it is a matter of public record who the contractors are, O'Hare and McGovern.

SB: Will you receive independent structural engineer reports requested by all of them?

PN: I don't know. All I know is what we've got. We have one preliminary report.

SB: There are over 8,000 block bookers who pay their money in advance for Northern Ireland's home Euro 2016 qualifiers. They will obviously feel they should see the match. What would you say to them?

PN: I would say everybody is turning every stone to try and ensure we run the game on June 13 at the national stadium.

SB: The Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin told this newspaper earlier in the week that she was keen to get this issue sorted. You would be aware of that?

PN: Yes.

SB: What did you make of the Sports Minister's comments?

PN: No comment on that. The Sports Minister is entitled to her opinion. We are in constant contact with DCAL and have been throughout the project for a number of years. The Minister is naturally taking a very close interest in the project because it is part of a huge programme for her department, which she has been very instrumental in making this happen. I appreciate she has a keen interest in it.

SB: How do you think this is all going to play out?

PN: Hopefully with a win against Romania.

SB: In which stadium?

PN: (laughs) In the national stadium.

SB: That being the case temporary seating would have to be put in at the Railway End of Windsor Park to have close to the numbers you would like?

PN: That would be a logical conclusion, wouldn't it? But I don't feel able at this point in time to answer any detailed questions.

SB: So how many fans will be at Windsor for the Romania game?

PN: Again I don't want to be absolutely precise but our aim is to hold the game at the national stadium with as many people as possible.

SB: But how many?

PN: At our last home game there were 10,264 fans. We are looking to hold the game with as many people as possible.

SB: When can we expect a statement from the IFA about the Kop and Windsor?

PN: Only when we are confident that we have covered every angle and we know precisely what is happening will we say anything more.

SB: Is time not of the essence here. The Northern Ireland game is just weeks away now?

PN: Yes, time is of the essence, but so too is accuracy. Structural engineers can't produce reports they can't stand over later. That would be no good for anybody.

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