This blog obviously supports one particular european candidate, but it tries to report impartially on all candidates. On the issue of national football stadia, however, I will make no such attempt at impartiality. This blog believes that the Northern Ireland football team should stay in the capital city. As such I welcome todays announcement that a consortium is considering building a 20,000 seater stadium in East Belfast.
The Maze project is now dead and buried, but Windsor Park is in a sorry state. The Northern Ireland football team doesn't need a stadium on the scale proposed for the Maze, but it does need a modern stadium in the 20-25,000 capacity range. This can either be achieved by redevelopment at Windsor or by building a new stadium. I have mixed feelings on which is better, I have fond feelings for Windsor Park and we have a lot of history in the stadium, but the appeal of a new build stadium can't be denied.
The decision may, however, be determined more by solicitors than anything else. Linfield have their IFA contract, a 99 year deal (signed in 1984) which entitles them to 15% of gate receipts at international games. Linfield are of course going to insist on being bought out of this contract if the Northern Ireland team moves. When the Maze project was being discussed it was suggested that the government might pay for this, but in the current financial climate I think the government will be reluctant to produce the cash. The result is that renovating Windsor Park could become the only viable option. At least, though, todays announcement creats an alternative for consideration.