No new stadium?

The news that the Maze has been confirmed as the only viable site for a new stadium has been greeting with predictable dismay amongst parts of the sporting community. Rugby and football fans are equally up-in-arms, while GAA fans seem muted on the issue (possibly because they don’t feel ownership of the project). As someone who thinks it’s high time NI had a decent-quality stadium of its own, I’m slightly dismayed at the apparent reaction, but I guess people have their reasons for rejecting the proposal. What the politicians will do is anyone’s guess..

  • Alan2

    I can see what some are saying with regards atmosphere created by being in a large town or city whereas the Maze is outside the city. However it is also very central and accessible from the motorway which could be a huge advantage.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    Titanic Quarter would have been immediately accessible from the M3 and close enough to central station so I don’t buy into the transport line.

    I agree we need a new stadium and the Maze is preferable to none, but those weren’t the two options, regardless of what way the government are trying to spin it.

    From the start this stadium was more about politics than sport, hence the twisting of the collective arm of the GAA to be involved in something that they have no need for.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    I should point out that while football fans don’t like the Maze stadium, they are very loyal (and on the whole, recognise NI need a new home) and will follow Northern Ireland to the Maze if that’s where they end up.

    I would imagine rugby fans to be the same, the main difference being they can be quite well accommodated at their current location and seem intent on staying their whether the new stadium is built or not.

    Since the GAA were only involved in this as a token gesture from the start, they seem, by all accounts, fairly apathetic but on the whole don’t mind the Maze.

    The main obstacle to actually building a new stadium, from my view, is that Ulster Rugby have said they’re going to play next to no matches there, after committing to 15 of the ‘magic number’ of 30 games a year. From what I can tell, the government seem to have ignored this announcement.

  • George

    Beano,
    if the football team was fully representative of both communities in Northern Ireland maybe the British wouldn’t have felt the need to call rugby and GAA on board.

    In saying this, I am not saying many NI football fans aren’t open to NI being fully representative, just that consensus in Northern Ireland is almost impossible regardless of how much effort has been made.

    You certainly won’t have nationalist consensus on supporting the NI team if the union flag is flown and GSTQ is sung just like unionists won’t support the GAA because the Irish tricolour is flown and the Soldier’s Song sung.

    For me, you can’t take away the tricolour from the GAA and you can’t take the British symbolism out of a Northern Ireland football team.

    In an ideal partitionist world, Belfast would have had a 20,000 all-seater football stadium which could even be called a “national” stadium because of the cross-community support.

    Partition wasn’t the ideal solution so no Northern Irish nation has evolved and it doesn’t look like one will. No nation – no national stadium.

    P.S. when you say “everything Ulster” I assume you actually mean “everything Northern Ireland”.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    Yes, but “Everything Northern Ireland” didn’t really have the same ring to it, did it? Besides, common usage of Ulster as a synonym for Northern Ireland is hardly a new thing, nor unique to myself.

    And I know it probably makes little difference to yourself and many a nationalist (that’s not a criticism) but it’s the Ulster Banner (Norn Irn fleg) that is flown at Northern Ireland matches, not the Union Flag, although some of the crowd bring their own.

  • fair_deal

    “If the football team was fully representative of both communities”

    The NI football team has players from all backgrounds in Northern ireland.

    “the NI team if the union flag is flown”

    The Union flag is not flown at NI matches.

    Football is the sport with the greatest participation and support in both of NI’s main communities.

  • George

    Beano,
    it’s the Northern Ireland flag that is flown not the Ulster flag as you well know. This is hardly a consensus flag either.

    And just because many people use Ulster incorrectly when they actually mean the six counties of Northern Ireland that is no excuse for you to make the same mistake.

    Also, it is the union flag, as the national flag, that is flown over Windsor Park and GSTQ that is sung.

    The Northern Ireland flag is the flag of the IFA, it is not the flag of Northern Ireland, not since Stormont was abolished.

    The cross of St. Patrick is the IRFU flag but the tricolour is flown at Lansdowne because it is the national flag.

  • Davros

    If Beano chooses to define Ulster as Antrim, Down, Armagh, Londonderry and Tyrone what gives anybody the right to criticise him ?

  • fair_deal

    Davros

    hem..hem..fermanagh

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    The former Ulster counties (now the occupied 3 counties) turned their backs on Ulster at the start of the century, thus, Ulster was reduced to 6 counties and the new Free State began their occupation of the other 3. Unfortunate for the unionists trapped on the wrong side of the border, but nobody said partition was perfect.

    Ulster may not be the official name, but neither is ‘The Occupied 6 Counties’, ‘The 6 Counties’, ‘The north of the island of Ireland’, ‘Ireland’s nort’ and all the other names petty republicans use to avoid saying Northern Ireland.

    “it’s the Northern Ireland flag that is flown not the Ulster flag as you well know. This is hardly a consensus flag either.”
    I know it’s not a consensus flag, that’s why I said I wasn’t criticising nationalists for not accepting it. But it’s official title is the Ulster Banner – it was a nationalist (or at least a Cliftonville supporter) who informed me of that 🙂 – so there is nothing wrong with my post.

  • Davros

    Glad to see someone is awake fair_deal LOL

  • Dessertspoon

    People can’t even talk about football or stadia without reverting back to tribal bollocks or why this flag is right or this emblem is wrong. If we don’t have the number of sporting fixtures to make the stadium financially viable then don’t build it. It really is that simple. It has nothing to do with flags, badges, banners or scarves.

  • idunnomeself

    The Issue is the financial viability of the stadium. Football can’t do it alone, they won’t fill the stadium often enough (they’d have about 6-8 International games, plus maybe the Irish cup final or the all-Irland final?). The GAA and Rugby are needed to make it work. Both organisations also need a better stadium.

    On the topic of rugby and GAA obviously the fans like their current grounds, but they don’t have good facilities, they aren’t comfortable and there are bad parking etc.

    People here just don’t know how much better a good, modern stadium is. When they realise they’ll take to the new stadium like a duck to water.

    You don’t have to stand (IE yours kids and wife won’t have sore legs. do any of the men in Ravenhill realise that standing is deeply uncomfortable for 70% of the target audience for a live sporting event?)
    You dont have to fight your way to a crowded concession for bad food or a drink (from a tent!)
    You can see better. Again do any of the men realise that half the women and most of the kids in Ravenhill can hardly see anything? Do they think this is maybe one of the reasons why so few attend?
    You are covered from the weather
    There’s corporate facilities- IE more income
    There will be a better atmosphere as it’ll be all enclosed rather than partially enclosed.
    Dedicated parking- the residents at ravenhill will complain more and more in the future, and the law is moving in their favour. In 5-10 years there may well be enforced park and ride

    In particular the Ravenhill crowd need to wise up. The fabled ‘atmosphere’ at Ravenhill is a function of the size of the crowd and the success of the team, The stidium design adds nothing. More people means more noise and more resources for better players. The atmosphere is very ordinary in my experience.

    Incidentally it takes as long to drive to the Maze from the City Centre as it does to drive to Ravenhill. Maybe the real issue is that its further from North Down or East Belfast?? Buses can be run from the City Centre anyway.

    A good stadium will attract more visiting supporters and enlarge the market for sport in NI. It’s an investment, not a luxury.

  • George

    Beano,
    I thought a royal warrant was granted by King George v in 1923 for the flag, which was the flag of the Northern Ireland government in Stormont.

    Even if it was named an “Ulster banner” it is still not the Ulster flag.

  • fair_deal

    George

    The warrant was for a coat of arms not a flag. The coat of arms was adapted to a flag for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Such an event was marked by flying the flags of the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom and there was public and political demand for a flag to represent Northern ireland beside that of Scotland etc.

    Just as patrick is not a patron saint but by popular accumulation so to is the flag based on the coat of arms for northern ireland popularly acclaimed as the Ulster flag.

  • CavanMan

    the GAA dont need any facilities..Casement Park is an outstanding stadium.. The GAA have no use for the maze stadium…they have 3 stadiums around the 30,000 capacity in Ulster,Clones,Breffini Park and Casement along with the newly developed Healy Park in Omagh.

  • slug9987

    Although city-centre stadia are great in many ways, and the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff a great example, this out-of-town stadium cannot be the disaster some are claiming. It is more central within NI, there is plenty of population within a short drive. The road and rail connections are said to be good – it isn’t that far from Lisburn where pre-match revelry could take place. I expect you could even attract larger and new audiences once the events are marketed. You could see new family groups going as idunnomyself says. I think the more important issue is making sure the design can adapt to different pitch sizes so that the atmosphere for football is good.

  • IJP

    IDM

    Incidentally it takes as long to drive to the Maze from the City Centre as it does to drive to Ravenhill.

    That’s the most sense I’ve heard on the subject for a long time!

  • barnshee

    “it isn’t that far from Lisburn where pre-match revelry could take place. I expect you could even attract larger and new audiences once the events are marketed”

    I have now seen it all LISBURN????? Site it at the maze for a white elephant

  • Aaron

    Plus, of course, the Maze is substantially closer to Belfast than Wembley is to central London.

    I don’t buy a lot of the reasons people give for objecting to the stadium. Some say a sport stadium shouldn’t be publicly-owned, it should be a private enterprise. As far as I know, most stadiums in France are municipal, and they seem to do OK. Plus, those saying the stadium will be a drain on the taxpayer don’t seem to mind about the amount of public money public pumped into Wembley – enough to easily cover the cost of the NI stadium.

    None of it adds up.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    “The GAA have no use for the maze stadium…they have 3 stadiums around the 30,000 capacity in Ulster,Clones,Breffini Park and Casement along with the newly developed Healy Park in Omagh.”

    Awk that’s nice of them to name their ground after Sir David.

    Come on, Lisburn is NOT a real city! I agree it may well end up being the site of some “pre-match revelry” but surely it can’t compete with Belfast. The atmosphere from the city centre right up to Windsor was fantastic when Poland visited at the beginning of the WCQs, because people could walk en masse to/from the stadium, stopping in the odd bar along the way, generally enjoying a bit of banter with each other.

    Can’t see too many walking along the hard shoulder of the M1. Titanic Quarter, however, could have been a whole other story…

    The people who are saying it’s central, fair enough, those coming from the South and West of the province will find it easier to get to. The numbers coming from the north, northwest and southeast, as well as the vast numbers from Belfast will only take longer to get there. Since the numbers will roughly balance out, the city centre atmosphere will be sacrificed for nothing.

    “Plus, of course, the Maze is substantially closer to Belfast than Wembley is to central London.” But it is not in the arsehole of nowhere either.

  • pakman

    The Maze can only work if there are proper transport links from Belfast where the pre & post match partying will happen. I don’t mean the occasional Ulsterbus but a proper rail link. One of the best recent examples of an out of town stadium is Stadium Australia where the last Lions test of the 2001 tour was held. Everyone partied all day in Sydney then got on a train to the stadium gate and were trained back later to Circular Quay to drown their sorrows. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of both “Belfast” airports and fail to provide a rail link.

  • factfinder

    ‘Let’s not repeat the mistakes of both “Belfast” airports and fail to provide a rail link.’

    Talking of airports,there is no direct road or transport link of any sort from Aldergrove(misleadingly called Belfast Int)to the Maze.It is in the middle of nowhere. Maybe it should be moved to the Maze as well.

    A cheap alternative to rail would be a tramway from Belfast via Lisburn.

  • Whatabout

    Why do we need to do any pre & post match partying? Is this not a sports stadium? If you go to the Odyssey to see the hockey you can get a beer / wine / food to enjoy while watching the game without partying and enjoy it just as much.

    I support the Maze site as it is equally difficult to reach from most parts of N Ireland and the border counties of Rep Of Ireland. It’s still a long way to go for some (and I’m not talking about you townies and Greater townies – maybe there’d be a pink bus lane the whole 14 miles!)

  • cladycowboy

    What? Wembley over ‘Battle in hastings’?

    We all exist

    This is in Ireland

  • calmdown

    Just a few things
    • The titanic quarter was never a goer(have you seen the traffic congestion when there is a concert on in the ODC).
    • The foreshore idea was just a rumour made up by a woman from the shore road trying to get an extra few quid for her house.
    • The maze does have a fairly good link to the Airport in fact the road is better than that to Belfast. NUTS CORNER-MOIRA-M1 . I assume they will make a new exit of the M1 directly into the new site.
    • The main Belfast -Dublin rail link passes less than half a mile from the site so I’m sure even our lot could sort out the rail links
    • A city centre location would have been great but one doesn’t exist .
    • To those whose idea of a visit to a sporting event always has to involve getting p155ed think of those with small kids who would love to see their team play but still be in bed at a reasonable time and not have to wait for 10000 cars to clear the Boucher road.The last Saturday international most of the bars in belfast wouldnt let us in because we were wearing football tops(funny that)
    • Lisburn is a bit of a hole (I know I live there)we don’t have a hotel ,radio station ,decent restaurant and for all the pubs it has there aren’t too many you would drink in
    As long as Lisburn council isn’t involved in any way I think the maze could be a success

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    lol I have to say I wasn’t surprised to find that post was written by Lisburn lad.

    It’s not just about getting pissed. There’s a great atmosphere about, and I’ve witnessed it before the Poland game last year (no I wasn’t pissed).

    Most decent bars will let you in in football tops on match days (the Bot, Ryan’s, Vaughan’s to name the few I know for definite).

    I don’t believe the traffic at TQ would be any worse than that coming out of the Maze. It’ll still be the same – thousands of cars (fingers crossed anyway) trying to get on to a 2-lane motorway. The only difference is people are more likely to disperse on foot to bars, bus stations, train stations… because the buses and trains will actually go somewhere besides Belfast!

    A city-centre location does exist – Titanic Quarter. I dont believe it to be as expensive as the estimated £20m to improve the infrastructure at the Maze (motorway exits and moving train stations/tracks and stuff).

    Hopefully the viability reports will be released soon (a request has been made under the Freedom of Information Act) so we can all see why the other sites were so unviable (nothing to do with political motives or an H-block museum!)

    Lisburn council are already involved. If you believe they’ll keep their grubby mits off this you’re nuts!

  • Gonzo

    I tend to agree.

    Where’s the craic in coming out of a stadium only to find a car park?

    [/me] Living near Windsor Park, and have had no problems with the NI fans…[/end]

  • calmdown

    I have to say I wasn’t surprised to see what you consider to be a decent bar.
    I wasn’t surprised to hear you weren’t pissed getting a drink in any of those places is a nightmare on a match day/night

    You mentioned the 20 million on infrastructure required for the maze. The road and rail links to the “TQ” (as you like to call it) would be free !! .Oh and the other small matter that they don’t own the TQ so they would have to buy it for you guessed it more £££

    You obviously don’t or cant drive if you have never seen the mayhem after a concert in the odc. Oh and the M1 has 4 lanes and then there is the A1 which takes you south bound. If it’s the extra cost for the bus/train I’m sure me and some of my wealthy friends in Lisburn could have a whip round for you

    I have travelled all over the world with the GAWA to support our team and with the exception of Wales all the grounds were a bit away and the atmosphere at all the matches was brilliant the location doesn’t make the atmosphere, the fans make the atmosphere I have just returned from ball frozen Warsaw. We were force Marched for 45 minutes by the Poljka or what ever they are called from the city centre to the ground there were about 700 odd of us you couldn’t feel you fingers or toes but the atmosphere was electric
    So if it’s the maze im more than happy with that if it’s the TQ I will still be there

    The price of my house will rocket when they build the maze!! Magic

  • sam thompson

    why can’t the treasury dispose of the maze through selling it for development, both commercial and domestic? then buy the land in the city at titanic quarter and put it there next the motorway, central and bridge end rail stations, beside the bars and clubs of the odyssey, and with plenty of room for parking space? surely the government might also have known not to involve local ‘politicians’ in this as the best options would be tossed aside for political expediency. if we dont get a stadium in titanic quarter, i woulr rather stay in a patched up windsor park. its far from perfect but at least it is in our capital city, not that excuse for one down the road