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Linfield will not rush to back Windsor Park plan

Windsor Park

Linfield members are likely to ask for more time to consider the Windsor Park new national stadium plan, as revealed last week by the Belfast Telegraph.

Blues members have tonight been called to an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the proposals that could see Windsor transformed into a 20,000 all-seater ultra-modern home to Linfield and Northern Ireland international football.

But first Linfield would have to waive their current, controversial 100-year Windsor rental agreement with the Irish FA for hosting Northern Ireland games at Windsor, in recent years worth over £600,000 annually to the club.

That deal, with 78 years to run, would be replaced by a new agreement whereby Linfield would be paid a reduced annual amount but would no longer be responsible for the financially draining upkeep of the rundown old stadium, as they are now.

Ground maintenance would then pass to a stadium management company in which Linfield would hold a major stake as owners, but with costs met mainly by the IFA through increased international revenues.

The feeling among canvassed Linfield members, who have the power to progress or torpedo the proposals, seems to be leaning towards acceptance as being in the best long interests of the club and Northern Ireland football.

But a sizeable number have insisted on internet forums that they will not be railroaded into a quick decision at tonight's meeting. That could lead to a call for a longer period of consultation, having just learned of the proposals last week following a series of talks between their management committee, the IFA and Sport NI, representing Government.

Linfield's management committee will recommend acceptance but that may only come after another debate after the July holidays.

Time is of the essence, though, with the Stormont Assembly anxious to allocate the £110million set aside after the collapse of the Maze multi-sport project to provide separate upgraded homes for the three major sports here, football, rugby and gaelic games.

Much has been read into a report putting the slice of the cake asked for as £50million by the GAA for Casement, £30m by rugby for Ravenhill and just £20m by the IFA for Windsor, with £10m unaccounted for. But those amounts are based on perceived 'needs' with the GAA wanting to extend Casement to 40,000 and Windsor requiring just 20,000. The IFA could, however, also pitch for an 8,000 Junior National stadium and Coaching Centre at Sydenham with Glentoran as anchor tenants.

Belfast Telegraph