Why have another stadium?

Tom Humphries on his recent trip to Belfast outs himself as an aspirational Republican: “I still have a secret hankering (which I don’t mention around the office) for a united Ireland but I accept that, like my hankering for an etiolated heroin-chic body shape, it’s all aspirational”. Then goes on to deliver an assay of Northern Irish sports facilities (subs needed)!

On ice skating:

In Dundonald what seemed like thousands of teenage kids were slipping and sliding about the place, conspicuously oblivious, it seemed, to the attractions of getting alcoholic drink down them or buying gear to inject themselves with. I noticed (because I am unreconstructed and just can’t help it) lots of Rangers jerseys and a few English national shirts on the skaters but no county jerseys or Celtic hoops. Do Taigs not skate? Are we not past the politics of skate?

Ah, it’s all different up here:

Until I began covering sports events in Casement Park and Windsor Park I could never quite reconcile the dourness of the politics with the happy fervour of the drinking and partying. It would be nice to say that sport in Belfast is a common passion but it isn’t. It’s two separate, delineated passions which unintentionally find a similar form of expression. In Casement and Windsor, on those days when everyone is transfixed by sport, you can taste the salt of Belfast’s personality. What I have always liked about both venues – apart from certain grisly elements in their histories – is their accessibility. Both are fine grounds to walk to and they provide some of the sense of Belfast as a defiant, living city.

And on the GAA’s signing up to the new Maze stadium:

I’m not saying they are wrong; I’m just saying I am curious and baffled. The Ulster Council of the GAA (so cussedly partitionist a body that they have almost seceded from the GAA) have taken to playing their big games in Croke Park and play their lesser games in Clones (45,000 capacity) or in Casement (32,500) – have they something to bring to this party? I’m not sure.

The stadium, it is said, will be modelled on the lovely, sturdy Dragao stadium in Portugal. Very nice. The concept of different classes and creeds all sharing the same cathedral of sport is very nice too, but when three sports bodies, none of whom have an apparent need for such a facility, sign up to that facility regardless of the needs of their fans you have to wonder a little what else is going on in terms of whispered promises.

  • slug

    What’s his point?

  • Mark

    That we’re all doing very nicely and there’s no need to waste a scandalous amount of money that could be used developing all three games at grass roots level on a stadium that isn’t needed, is in the middle of nowhere and will rarely be full?

  • slug

    I would agree if that is indeed his point.

  • PS

    their lesser games in Clones (45,000 capacity) or in Casement (32,500)

    Factually inaccuarate. The capacity at Clones is around 33,000 and Casement is closer to the 30,000 mark.

  • irritated

    I think the point is that it would be nice to have an impressive Northern Ireland stadium that all the main sports used. Plus it would be nice to develop that site into something all the community can use before another bloody shopping centre gets built there

  • mnob

    At least the shopping centre wouldnt be subsidised by the tax payer. Though the effect of sucking wealth and energy out of the city (ies?) would be the same.

  • brendan

    I would be happy enough – well, grudgingly accepting, of a new stadium but the Lisburn location is just crazy. It will not work. it will stand empty 360 nights a year (at least) and will be a hugely expensive drain on resources.

    there are sites in Belfast which didn’t receive proper consideration and should even now be fully examined.

    there is very little strategic thinking being applied by the Strategic Investment Board on this one.

  • stu


    That’s because they’re their to strageically invest. Planning doesn’t come into the equation. Would be curious to see the strategy here.

  • “Plus it would be nice to develop that site into something all the community can use before another bloody shopping centre gets built there”

    It would, but that’s no reason to sacrifice the needs of local sport for some sort of token gesture, let’s all group hug, look how well we all get on, wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time white elephant so some direct rule minister can have a nice line or two about bringing 2 warring tribes together on her CV.

    The new stadium is all about exactly what sport in Northern Ireland doesn’t need – more politics.

  • slug

    There is no sound reason why it has to be in the Maze. The land at the Maze could be sold off to finance a stadium in a better location.


  • PS,

    Actually you are wrong about Casement. The official capacity of the stadium is indeed 32,500 although that figure has been exceeded on two or three occaions in the past decade. Your figure for Clones though is accurate.

  • billy

    Scrap the whole idea, a total waste of money

  • GavBelfast

    An awful idea – if it was actually in Lisburn (as you suggest, Brendan) they were talking about, it wouldn’t be quite as bad.

    The Maze/Long Kesh site simply isn’t viable for a stadium and the multi-sports notion – with multi-pitch sizes – isn’t viable either.

    I don’t want our own local version of the Millennium Dome, thank you very much, especially when we have such pressing needs as lack of acute hospital facilities in the West.

    By all means invest enough money to to the sporting bodies concerned to bring their grounds up to date, and make sure they account for it, and have done with it.

    But, as for the ridiculous notion of this Maze project: down with that sort of thing!