A collective of Northern Ireland supporters’ clubs have rejected the inclusion of Casement Park in the UK and Ireland’s joint bid to host the Euro 2028 football tournament.
The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs (AONISC) has rejected the inclusion of Belfast’s Casement Park in the UK and Ireland’s joint bid to host the 2028 UEFA European Football Championship.
Casement Park – the home of Antrim GAA – is the only venue on the list that is not primarily a football (soccer) stadium.
While the AONISC has voiced concerns, the IFA has expressed its support for the bid despite the apparent obstacles it faces.
Euro 2028 bid launched – two Irish stadiums included in the bid
The final shortlist of stadiums was announced this week. On top of Casement Park, the bid also includes English stadiums Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Villa Park, the Etihad Stadium, St James’ Park, and Everton’s in-construction Bramley-Moore Dock.
Glasgow’s Hampden Park and Cardiff’s Principality Stadium represent Scotland and Wales in the bid. Dublin’s Aviva Stadium joins Casement Park for Irish stadiums.
Dropped from the bid were Old Trafford, the London Stadium, and the Stadium of Light. The updated bid also omits another GAA stadium included in the original proposal – Croke Park.
Northern Ireland’s home ground, Windsor Park, could not be included as its 18,500 capacity falls well below the minimum requirement of 30,000.
Northern Ireland fans unhappy – the AONISC voices concerns
A spokesperson for the AONISC expressed the group’s chagrin. He said, “It is our view, and indeed our preference, that football tournaments should be hosted by football stadia. The Irish Football Association are aware of our position in relation to this matter”.
Despite Northern Ireland fans expressing their displeasure, the Irish Football Association (IFA) took to Twitter to share their support for the bid.
The official IFA account tweeted, “The boss backs the bid”, along with a quote from incumbent Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.
O’Neill’s statement read, “Securing this bid for Northern Ireland would be transformative for our legions of passionate football fans. I am fully behind it and hope everyone will lend their support to it too”.
The current state of Casement Park – among obstacles facing the bid
There are several obstacles to negotiate before any sport is played at one of Ireland’s most famous sports venues. The stadium is dilapidated, in a state of disuse since 2013.
The stadium is due a renovation that will improve its facilities and increase its capacity to 34,500. The current lack of an executive at Stormont, however, makes funding uncertain. Furthermore, some estimate that the final cost might equate to double the originally predicted £77 million.
Stephen McGeehan of Ulster GAA assured doubters that progress has been made behind the scenes.
McGeehan said, “We’re absolutely delighted that we now see a pathway to work with officials to get the necessary approvals either with an executive – or with the support of the UK and Irish governments – to ensure that Casement Park can and must now happen”.
A spokesperson for the UK government confirmed its support, saying, “The UK government will continue to work with partners, including the NI Executive and GAA, on the bid, including the funding for Casement Park”.
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