Northern Ireland Assembly, 12 October 2010
I ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure for an update on the upgrade of Windsor Park and any discussions he has had with the Irish Football Association regarding the upgrade. (AQO271/11)
Nelson McCausland (DUP)
Through Sport NI, my Department appointed consultants to undertake the outline business case for stadium development. Having assessed the proposals, together with other options, it was concluded that the most economically advantageous option for regional stadium development for football is to redevelop Windsor Park stadium to increase its capacity of 13,500 to accommodate 18,000 spectators. That would involve significant refurbishment of the north and west stands and redevelopment of the east and south stands. The option would also include the provision of premium seating, big screens and improved access to the new stadium via the Boucher Road.
Throughout the process, there have been ongoing discussions with the Irish Football Association and other governing bodies regarding future stadium development. That includes a meeting that I held with all the governing bodies together at the outset of the process. Members may wish to note that, in the interim, my Department, through Sport NI, has funded safety measures at Windsor Park, so that international football can continue to be played there this autumn. I had an opportunity to see that work at first hand when I attended the 2012 European Championship qualifier match on Friday night. It was a great match, and I was delighted that Northern Ireland held its own against Italy to gain a valuable point. I am sure that we will want to take the opportunity to wish the Northern Ireland team — our national team — well again.
Brian Wilson (Green)
I have been a regular spectator at Windsor Park for more than 50 years. I was at the previous match between Northern Ireland and Italy in 1958, when we beat them 2-1. I am delighted with the team’s recent success.
My problem is the IFA. I am continually embarrassed by its antics. Can the Minister assure the House that no money will go towards the redevelopment of Windsor Park until there are fundamental changes in the IFA?
Nelson McCausland (DUP)
I have said quite a bit about the IFA in the past number of months, and I have made the position clear. I am sure that the IFA is a concern to many people. The IFA needs to regain the confidence of the wider football community, the Government and the public. It cannot be overemphasised that the IFA needs to have a full, rigorous and independent review of its structures and governance arrangements. It is only on the basis of such a review that new fit-for-purpose governance arrangements can be designed and implemented. I hope that that message is taken on board.