NI Affairs committee in favour of locating the National Stadium in the city

As being discussed on Radio Ulster’s TalkBack today, the NI Affairs Committee has published its report on Tourism in NI. It’s a lengthy report but the immediate focus is likely to be on the recommendation about where a National Stadium should be sited. Hint, it’s in line with the Secretary of State for Wales’ comments.. but not the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s.. Chairman Partick Cormack commented on the government’s preference for the Maze site – “The government is wrong.”From the report [pdf file]

120. We note Northern Ireland’s growing success as a conference venue, and in particular Belfast’s success in hosting a number of high profile conferences. However, the market for international conferences is extremely competitive, and we understand that Dublin is in the process of developing high quality conference facilities. We urge the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to work closely with the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau to identify what support is necessary to ensure that Belfast continues to be competitive as a location for conferences.

121. We believe that development of a National Stadium could provide the much needed exhibition space, as in Cardiff, which is required to attract major conferences to Belfast. Apart from the sporting and economic arguments in favour of locating the National Stadium in the city we believe that there would be considerable tourist advantages from such a decision.

The reports conclusions and recommendations can be found here

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  • john

    “One road in and one road out, with 20,000 odd vehicles on it at once”

    20,000 cars at a Northern Ireland football match, you must be joking. I presume you are talking about a GAA game or an Irish rugby international.

    “you can have people arriving at staggered times all day because they have something to do before/after the match for a start”

    Never really happens mate, you are living in a dream world.

  • John East Belfast

    Thank goodness common sense is beginning to prevail (hoepfully) in this decision.

    The reason I heard (from the mouth of those involved in the decision to favour the Maze) was that only the Maze offered the affordable land to build such a project.

    When I queried this I discovered that what the were talking about was the space required to build the entire infrastructure of supporting bars, restaurants and the car parking etc.

    However it makes no sense to try and recreate what Belfast already has in abundance.

    you do not need to build a few thousand car parking spaces and new bars etc when you could put it in the Ormeau Park.

    You could park if you wished anywhere within a couple of miles and walk. You could even jump on a bus or get your wife to drop you off.
    After the match you could strole on down to city centre bars etc.

    It makes no commercial sense whatsoever to spend tens of millions on infrastructure that is only required a few times per annum and I cant see how bars and eateries would be successful without a regular clientelle.

    There is no way the numbers on this could add up at the Maze – numbers of course none of us have been permitted to see which can only cause you to be suspicious of true motives.

    A 25,000 stadium in Belfast could possibly hold the odd rock concert as well.

    Regarding tourism nobody is suggesting that tourists would come to see a stadium.
    However the issue is all about visiting fans coming one or two days early or staying on. Like I did with the G&W Army in Copenhagan last year.

    Depending on NI football success and the importance of matches this could increase in value.

    Of course if fans came they might like it and go home and tell their friends and family that Belfast is good place for a City Break.

    Belfast is an international brand – for the wrong reasons – but it still has a mystique and if visiting fans felt they were going to a modern stadium in a interesting city in a beautiful country then that could be exploited by NITB.

    There is simply no contest between Belfast, the second largest city in Ireland and capital of Northern Ireland and a soulless wilderness such as the Maze. The arguments for the latter are self justifying and only supported by choosing the Maze in the first place.

    Rugby and football should be given a Belfast Stadium and the Antrim GAA should be given a grant to plough into Casement Park and everyone should be happy

  • BP1078

    Ulster McNulty

    There are 250,000 car drivers in Belfast, really?

    People already go to Windsor, Casement, Ravenhill etc. The same people will still go to any new stadium, to see the same number of events. No extra activity occurs.

    You haven’t taken into consideration internal tourism (ie people travelling in to watch concerts and other events organised at such a stadium) but let’s assume you’re right, stadiums don’t attract tourism… but that exact same argument would also apply to the Maze Stadium. Foreign tourists will not travel up and walk a several kilometers fromm the nearest train station to look at a Maze Stadium.
    They may go up to look at the proposed Conflict Centre or whatever else is being proposed to be built there, but there is no reason why that can not go ahead independent of the stadium.

    As Norman points out above the transport argument is also totally spurious. The Maze can be much more easily and quickly accessed by a majority of people from different locations in Northern Ireland than a Belfast city centre can.

    OK, here we go again.

    1. Is Belfast the transport hub for NI, yes or no?

    2.The M1, M2, M3, M5 and major ‘A roads’ all meet in central Belfast. All rail lines lead to Belfast. More bus routes facilitate Belfast than anywhere else in Northern Ireland. Two airports and the sea port also serve the city
    Do you dispute any of that data?

    3.There is no rail link close to the propsed Maze site (and none planned)
    Yes or no?

    If the answer is “yes” some details please.
    If the answer is “no” then logically….

    4…It will rely on visitors coming by car or coach and the need for a junction to be added.

    One junction (paid out of ultimately taxpayers pockets) serving the estimated 40,000, at let’s say an Ulster GAA final, does that sound feasible or practical to you?
    OK, despite the local DUP objections, they decide to build a couple of soulless stadium bars to keep the fans happy, will that attract people to come to the game any earlier, or will we still face the prospect of over 40,000 fans heading in their cars and buses (no trains remember) at the same time on that one junction?

    I’m not sure which site in Belfast makes most sense, but looking at all factors objectively it’s clear that the Maze should be a non-starter.
    (

  • stephen

    So John its about keeping the GAA away from ‘your’ stadium.

    At least we know were n.i football fans are coming from. (the past)

    How utterly depressing.

  • John East Belfast

    Stephen

    “So John its about keeping the GAA away from ‘your’ stadium”

    If the GAA are happy with a smaller pitch, smaller stadium in centre Belfast then they are very welcome to come along.

    If they say this is not suitable for them then lets ensure the GAA is not left out of any Govt subsidy by giving them funds to upgrade Casement Park.

    it is you who is introducing the sectarianism here – I am sticking to the sports requirements. I am sure there are many GAA fans who also support Ulster rugby and possibly even a few who support NI Football.

    Therefore this is not about keeping anybody out but doing what is best for the various sports and the local economy balanced against taxpayer expenditure.

    I know it has been necessary to blow democracy out of sensible proportions here with D’Hondt and a 108 Member Assembly but we do not need to apply the same logic to the National Stadium and over cook it to try and please everyone with a proposal that does not make commercial sense.

  • brendan,belfast

    Stephen, by looking for and finding sectarianism in every corner you are exposing your own sensitivites, not other peoples.

    The GAA – and i am a member – does not need a new stadium at the Maze. what games will feature there? Antrim league games – the Board has already said no and at the moment those games attract a couple of thousand people at most.

    Ulster championship? Casement only gets one game a year which does not involve Antrim and they rarely sell out. All other big games go to Clones which as we now know is in line for a further upgrade.

    As a GAA member no-one has ever asked me or my club, or indeed my county, if we want a new stadium at the Maze or anywhere else.

    Who exactly on behalf of the GAA briefed the PSNI that GAA fans would not travel to Belfast city centre for a game?

  • gram

    beano:>>See what this BBC sports writer thought (these thoughts were echoed on some rugby fans forums). <

  • BP1078

    Do you (you are presumably a member of the GAA?) want to be part of the project or not?

    If so, great.

    There does seem to be a debate on the matter at the minute even within GAA circles:

    A more pratical solution would be instead of building this stadium that the Brits give the money to the various sporting organisations so that it can be invested in improving current facilities and/or in coaching.

    http://gaaboard.com/board/index.php?PHPSESSID=b07b8241ec0cb2965b8de50160d18056&topic=589.15

    What’s your opinion on that suggestion?

  • susan

    If the GAA and Rugby don’t need or want a new stadium why waste money on a stadium for football when so few go to watch it.

    Its a bit like spending a hundred million on a new hockey facility. It would be a waste of money.

    While the football team are on a bit of a high after a few wins, we should not forget that they were only averaging about 6000 for a home game a few years ago, so it seems ridiculous to spend millions on a 25000 stadium that will be half empty most of the time.

    You will not attract the big groups/acts in a 25000 seater anyway, its just too small.

    It seems the best solution would be to give the money to fix the roof at Windsor Park and forget about the whole stadium idea

  • mnob

    Susan – a sensible idea !

    and how about spending some of that money in making access to windsor easier and less intimidating for those who find South Belfast an unwelcoming place.

  • GavBelfast

    Brendan Belfast,

    Bang on!

    When you cut out the pathetic trolls and their rank sectarianism, incurable pedants like George 😉 and people who don’t seem to actually go to sport, there is no evidence of actual enthusiastic support for this self-indulgent, barmy scheme.

  • brendan,belfast

    Do i want to be part of a prohect which involves improving sports facilities for GAA, soccer and rugby? Of course i do. give money to each and let them redevelop / improve their existing stadia. If a location which makes sense can be identified at a value for money price where all sports can co-exist that’s even better.

    do i want to go along with an NIO sponsored provo / DUP carve up which will inevitably fail? no thanks.

    if its the Maze or nothing (as David Hanson says) i’ll happily take nothing.

  • sport 4 all

    The Maze is a much more suitable location for the many, many people from the south-east(places such as Downpatrick and Newry etc.) who want to see NI games.

  • Paul

    Susan ( et al)

    RE:
    “If the GAA and Rugby don’t need or want a new stadium why waste money on a stadium for football when so few go to watch it.”

    Where did this oft repeated myth that the GAA is not interested in / won’t ever use / is only paying lip service to the idea of a new stadium come from?

    Does anybody care to take a reality check and establish the real GAA position?

    Its quite simple and has been stated here on Slugger before.

    The GAA are very keen on getting a 40000 + capacity stadium in the North.
    Section 8.4.3 of GAA Strategic Review report:

    One ‘major’ stadium should be developed in each Province with the exception of Leinster; (A ‘major’ stadium would involve a capacity of 40,000 to 60,000, of which at least two-thirds would be seated and a minimum of 35% of the seats
    would be covered.)

    The GAA’s economic case appears to be backed up by an interim report by Department of Economics University College Cork. see
    http://www.ucc.ie/academic/economics/research/workingpapers/03-01.pdf

    —–

    The maze stadium, at 40000 + capacity delivers exactly what the GAA needs, at minimal cost to the GAA.
    Of the three sports, the GAA will provide the largest crowds and the greatest ticket receipts to maintain a multi sport stadium stadium once built.

    There is no way that the GAA will sign up to any Ormeau Park stadium.
    It remains unconvinced that GAA families can come to Belfast and enjoy a big match atmosphere free fromt he threat of sectarian abuse.
    I have repeatedly challenged backers of the Ormeau site on slugger to persuade GAA fans otherwise.
    To date, nobody has tried.

    The GAA, as a nine county Ulster body, would prefer a stadium in a central Ulster location.
    Dungannon, at the end of the motorway, and no more than two hours drive from all of Ulster would be ideal.

    The Maze site, whilst not ideal, is only drive up the motorway, and from a GAA perspective is an acceptable compromise and is preferable to Belfast.
    Moreover, the capacity mooted for the Ormeau stadium is of absolutely no use to the GAA.
    The compromise 35000 seated / 42000 some standing proposal sounds like another reasonable compromise and all sports should proceed on that basis.

    Re: pitch size – Any arguments have been debunked by the use of Croke Park.
    Re: accessibilty – if the roads around Clones can handle 35k, then the M1 will be able to handle 40k.

  • frank

    The Maze is by far the best site for a multi sports stadium.

    The road links are excellent, huge parking areas and no sectarian no-go areas as would be the case in trying to access Ormeau.

    I’m behind all three sports, in supporting the Maze project.

    Its just a shame that in 2007 some people cannot even stand the thought of sharing a sports stadium with their co-religionists.

  • Crataegus

    Paul

    I have repeatedly challenged backers of the Ormeau site on slugger to persuade GAA fans otherwise.
    To date, nobody has tried.

    No many a thread people have advised you of the mixed and changing demographics of the area but those who don’t want to hear don’t.

    Even on one of the political threads during the election it was noted that SF were heavily canvassing on the Ravenhill Road!!!!!!!!!

    With regards road traffic have you considered what road works would be needed at the M1? Have you considered the car parking requirement and size? This is a serious investment to facilitate a few matches each year! It is insane.

    Have you considered that the private sector will not support ancillary development at the Maze. In truth this is probably what is now killing the Maze proposal.

    I am all for building a stadium that would suit all three sports and would like to see a larger rather than smaller stadium or certainly one that can be enlarged, but this is a substantial investment and there are considerations outside sport that will make this either a success or a white elephant. Location, location and location are the main considerations for any such development. You got to get it right, making do is tantamount to wasting a serious amount of money.

  • Paul

    Crataegus,

    this is genuinely the third time that I’ve asked the same question, and you are the first to reply.
    So its hardly a case of not listening to any differing views.

    Anyway, I was merely relaying the current thinking within GAA circles as to why they’re not being enthusiastic about a Belfast site.

    Their fear is that sectarian bigots, by virtue of a random attack or two on GAA fans, could heavily affect attendances.
    GAA match days are heavily family oriented – the mummies wouldn’t be happy if there was a chance of their kids getting attacked. If they stay away, attendances drop, and it makes more sense to play the games somewhere else that is perceived as being safer.
    The bigots then have their Orangedome by default.

    The big attraction of the maze is that by virtue of being in the middle of nowhere, it is guaranteed to be neutral. Its a simple hop onto the motorway, drive in, drive out job.

    Maybe Belfast is the right city, but the Ormeau site isn’t? Are there other sitres within Belfast that can match the neutrality / perceived safety of the Maze?

  • Terracetoff

    Tom

    many thanks for categorising me as a sectarian soccer supporter. In fact I’m a rugby man to my core – and that means I support Ireland as well as my province Ulster (the 9 county Ulster).

    My opposition to the Maze is based on the practicalities – there will need to be a huge investment in infrastructure to make it accessible. Personally I would prefer investment in the railway line North of Belfast which would be used every day, not just once in a while.

    The only people keen on the Maze are David Hanson, SF and some elements of the DUP. For the ordinary fan of whatever sport a Belfast location answers all the questions.

  • Paul

    Terracetoff,

    Re:
    The only people keen on the Maze are David Hanson, SF and some elements of the DUP

    You start off complaining about a grossly unfair generalisation and then finish off by making one yourself!

    I can assure that there are many people not in any of the above camps who prefer the Maze over any other current alternative.
    Some, especially those from outside Belfast, think that the Maze offers better accessibility than trying to battle through Belfast traffic.
    The GAA have doubts about spectator sfaety in Belfast (see above post).

  • BP1078

    The bigots then have their Orangedome by default

    You don’t do irony do you?

  • james

    “The only people keen on the Maze are David Hanson, SF and some elements of the DUP.”

    Plus all three associations and most of the clubs in the Irish League + many sports fans who are not driven by their political prejudices.

    “For the ordinary fan of whatever sport a Belfast location answers all the questions.”

    Utter rubbish, how does it.

    How does it address the security concerns of fans with young families as mentioned above. How does it answer the question of huge snarl ups in the city. How does it answer the question of using one of the city’s few green areas and turning it into a concrete jungle. How does it answer the question of being to small to stage large music concerts.

    I have spoken to some residents who live within eyeshot of the site and they are totally opposed to the stadium.

    No light rail system, no bus routes, only accessable from 2 junctions, zero parking facilities, poor pedestrian access

    Sure maybe they can build roads through the remaining parts of the park to facilitate it.

    Yes to the Maze

  • Fattone

    “For the ordinary fan of whatever sport aBelfast location answers all the questions.”

    “I have spoken to some residents who live within eyeshot of the site and they are totally opposed to the stadium.”

    Try again.

  • paul

    >The bigots then have their Orangedome by default

    >>You don’t do irony do you?

    well what else would you call it if the GAA are forced elsewhere?

    Anyway, I wanted to engage with those NI soccer / rugger fans who are prepared to share with the GAA and take their concerns on board.
    Hopefully they can accept that
    1. the GAA has genuine concerns about the Ormeau suggestion, on grounds of safety and capacity.
    2. no Belfast site that matches the perceived neutrality / safety of the Maze has yet been put forward. Who’s to say that another won’t be found?
    3. the GAA is wholly committed to a joint multi sports venue
    4. any stadium that excludes the GAA should get no public funding, either directly or indirectly (eg giving awway prime sites like Ormeau Park).

  • brendan,belfast

    paul – would you be anxious,as a GAA fan about attending a match in the city centre? Where did this conclusion come from and who within the GAA expressed it, on whose behalf?

    it’s a red herring. If someone wants to randomnly attack GAA fans it won’t matter if they are attending games in Ormeau Park or Lisbutm. that factor is irrelevant.

    You have challenged people to convince GAA fans that they would not be under threat. I ask you to convicne us that they / we would be…..

  • Token Dissent

    The Ormeau Road is nowhere near an unifromly Prod/loyalist area that some posters on here seem to be suggesting. In fact it is very diverse and includes areas with the highest levels of “mixed” housing in Northen Ireland.

    Personally I am in favour of a 30,000 stadium in Belfast. I’m unsure if parking etc, could be faciliated in the Ormeau region however.

    As the Committee report states economically and socially the Maze is the wrong chose for Norn Iron.

    By the way Northern Ireland games have seen their attendances shoot up recently. The European qualifiers have all been sold out; so regular attendances of over 20,000 isn’t a fantasy.

  • james

    Can you seriously imagine thousands of GAA fans trying to travel through the lower Ravenhill area to get to the ground.

    Paramilitary uvf murals, hardline loyalist clubs & bars and a terrible history of sectarian intolerance and murder.

  • Terracetoff

    Paul

    So it seems that the Maze is to suit one side of the community who will only feel happiest when there? Strange that, I thought this was about a sport stadium for all. Frankly I don’t give a toss whether the dome is green or orange I’m only interested in the practicalities of the issue. I have yet to meet any friends who are GAA people whosay that to me – they are unanimous in favouring a Belfast location (including County level players). So is there another agenda running under the stadium story as to why the Maze is the place? If there is get it out into the open and don’t come off with family safety.

    My preference is Titanic Quarter – don’t hear the Oddessy touted as an orange dome so how come a stadium at that location would be?

  • Crataegus

    There are two separate issues,
    DESIGN
    It seems to me that work needs to be done to clarify exactly what is needed what is the brief? Remember that within that brief could be flexibility and an ability to cater for future expansion. I would tend to go for as large as possible but still with the option for future expansion and I think the stadium should cater for all three sports (and other uses).

    LOCATION
    If we have a clear brief and a clear commitment and decide that it should in principle be in Belfast then we need to throw potential locations open again. You may be surprised what comes out of the woodwork. I can think of a couple of areas close to the centre of the city that would be worth looking at.

    Paul
    With regards Ormeau, I assume your problems relates to the lower Ravenhill area, that area is changing fast. It is increasingly Yuppified. If SF can canvass on the Ravenhill Road then it should be safe for anyone. I have had severe problems with Loyalists and I would have no fear of walking round the Ormeau area or indeed Ravenhill. I would be more worried walking through parts of North Dublin. In addition they were proposing building a foot bridge across the river from areas that are strongly Republican.

    I think first there needs to be a decision that it is Belfast. We need to decide the brief and thus the footprint and then let us look for sites and I think we could get better than Ormeau. I am a developer and used to large quantities of concrete and that sort of logistics, what I think a lot of people are getting wrong when looking for possible sites is they are looking at open land or parks. They are also forgetting that roads can be moved and railways built over and some locations currently in use may be available if a good offer were made to the owners.

    Let us decide Belfast, set the criteria and see what comes out of the woodwork.

  • George

    Terracetoff,
    “So is there another agenda running under the stadium story as to why the Maze is the place? If there is get it out into the open and don’t come off with family safety.”

    Perhaps because if it was at the Maze it would then be an over 40,000 capacity stadium which is what the GAA needs rather than a smaller one in Belfast which it already has.

  • The simple truth is that the sports need different things.

    GAA need a big ground, with a bigger pitch and anything up to 50k seats, apparently in the country away from anything that might be perceived as civilisation.

    Football needs, and Rugby, if it needs anything, needs a 20-25k seater stadium in the city centre where attendees can enjoy pre/post-match craic instead of all jumping in their cars and driving home immediately. Oh, and a smaller pitch.

    I’d probably compromise on pitch size to get the location, but not the other way round – especially if retractable seating would help (I’m not entirely sure it would for most spectators, I’m not an enginner though). But that still leaves the fact that the GAA’s capacity needs are completely at odds with those of Football and Rugby.

    The more I hear the more difficult I think it would be for them to co-exist. In principle it would be fantastic, but in practice it just doesn’t seem feasible.

    For whoever asked about a neutral venue in Belfast. Titanic Quarter was proposed but the GAA effectively vetoed this. The SIB in private have practically admitted that it was vetoed by the GAA. They made up some guff for public consumption that the police couldn’t guarantee the safety of 30000 GAA fans there, which the PSNI then came out and publicly rebuked. it was no more expensive than the new motorway junction and rail halt that will be needed for the Maze. So then the next excuse was cost. IIRC the cost would have been little more than what is necessary to stick a new motorway junction on the M1, add a new rail halt and decontaminate the land at the Maze.

  • Please ignore the first instance of “it was no more expensive than the new motorway junction and rail halt that will be needed for the Maze.” above, I meant to delete it and missed it.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    JEB

    Why should the GAA be excluded from the new stadium? Do you really think the GAA should be kept out, simply because the pitch is a few metres longer at either end? You’d be far closer to the action than was the case in, say, the old Wembley or the Maracana. Why are you so anxious to keep the GAA out?

    “If the GAA are happy with a smaller pitch, smaller stadium in centre Belfast then they are very welcome to come along.”

    Two things. One: it’s not for the fans of either soccer or rugby to extend a welcome to GAA. The new stadium either belongs to all three or it doesn’t happen at all – and given that the GAA doesn’t need the new stadium whereas the others do, a little less high-handedness would be in order. The unionist supremecy is dead and gone, it’s in the grave with Basil Brooke. So soccer fans (and it’s almost always soccer fans, let’s be honest) need to mind their manners, or they’ll be in the crumbling slum of Windsor for a long time to come. And two: all sports can fit comfortably on a GAA-sized pitch, and the pitch size should reflect this.

    “If they say this is not suitable for them then lets ensure the GAA is not left out of any Govt subsidy by giving them funds to upgrade Casement Park.”

    The GAA are saying nothing of the sort, so let’s drop this familiar exclusion gambit.

    “…it is you who is introducing the sectarianism here – I am sticking to the sports requirements.”

    And yet these “sporting requirements” lead you to the conclusion that the fenians should be kept out – lest you would be ten yards from the sideline rather than five.

    Who the hell do you think you’re kidding?

    “I am sure there are many GAA fans who also support Ulster rugby and possibly even a few who support NI Football.”

    Indeed. But that’s neither here nor there.

    “Therefore this is not about keeping anybody out but doing what is best for the various sports and the local economy balanced against taxpayer expenditure.”

    Bullshit, it’s ALL about keeping people out. You’re arguing that we should build a stadium for soccer and rugby AND pay for a massive revamp of Casement rather than build a single stadium which everyone could share. And you have to cheek to feign a concern for taxpayer expenditure? Your attitude is more like: keep them out at all costs.

    “…we do not need to apply the same logic to the National Stadium and over cook it to try and please everyone with a proposal that does not make commercial sense…”

    So your proposal is effectively to build two stadiums rather than share one – simply because the GAA playing surface is a little larger? “Commercial sense” my arse.

    You would’ve made a good minister during the old Stormont junta. You have a talent for rationalising the exclusion of fenians.

  • tony

    So that’s settled, no taigs in Belfast stadium

    “Welcome To The Orangedome”

  • brendan,belfast

    “So is there another agenda running under the stadium story as to why the Maze is the place? If there is get it out into the open and don’t come off with family safety”

    the other agenda is very simple: its a SF / DUP carve up. stadium for H Block museum. As Mairtin O’Muilleoir has said (and he sat on the original Maze Regeneration Panel which came up with the overall plan) “of course the stadium should be in Belfast………the things you do for love”

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Beano

    “The idea that Croke Park illustrates how cosily GAA and Rugby/Football can share is patently rubbish.”

    You’re rubbishing the overwhelming consensus of the 165,000 who have actually seen a rugby match at a GAA stadium – on the basis of a few internet grumblers. Not exactly a fair-minded basis on which to make a decision.

    “No, it’s the fact that Croke Park is not made for rugby, and there are a number of modern stadiums which would have the same effect.”

    A reasonable observation, but by no stretch of the imagination is it a good enough reason to exclude GAA and, effectively, build two stadiums.

    “In none of these important facets of rugby can you view the ball with any certainty if you are perched in the steepling territory of the Hogan and Cusack stands.”

    So his criticism has nothing to do with the size of the playing surface – it’s about the architecture of Croker, and the fact that its grandstands are simply so massive. This means nothing re. the Belfast stadium.

    “With the pitch itself situated a further 10m inside the grass area of the vast playing arena (144.5m x 88m), it made watching close-in action of a technical game even more difficult.”

    Again, nowhere near good enough a reason to exclude GAA. It looks like you’re reaching for excuses to exclude. Same old story. Who do you think you’re kidding Beano?

    I’d respect you more if you were honest and admitted that you don’t want the fenians to get na’hin.

  • Token Dissent

    Billy – I still can’t decide if you are for real or a superb parody of a MOPE-er.

    MOPE-er meaning the Republican mindset that ‘they’ are “The Most Oppressed People in the world Ever!!”

    Personaly I think that Basil Brooke (from beyond the grave), and Freemasons are conspiring to keep RCs out of a Protestant Stadium for a Protestant People.

    John made a considered and totally non-sectarian assessment of the situation, whilst you engaged in schoolyard stupidity. Your assertion that the GAA “doesn’t need the new stadium” is passed over without pausing to consider that this supports John’s views!

  • George

    Token dissent,
    “Your assertion that the GAA “doesn’t need the new stadium” is passed over without pausing to consider that this supports John’s views!”

    but it does need a 40,000+ stadium at the Maze, which is what is planned.

    GAA President Nickey Brennan said only last December that the GAA was “fully committed” to the Maze Stadium plan.

    It doesn’t need a smaller stadium in Belfast and it seems there is no chance of a 40,000+ stadium for Belfast. Well no one on here has mentioned it at any rate.

    Which brings us back to the Maze. The three can co-exist but is seems only at this location and only with a stadium large enough for the GAA.

    If the GAA are out, then the IRFU will just have to upgrade Ravenhill and the IFA can have some cash to fix that Windsor Park roof.

    So no stadium in Belfast unless it is over 40,000+ and fit for GAA purposes.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Token Dissent

    Yes, I know what MOPE means. Anyone who has been around here for more than five minutes is very familiar with that tired old cliche. (Though it’s interesting that you hold such a narrow definition of it – that it’s specifically a republican thing.)

    The Basil Brooke remark was a little poetic flourish (with apologies to WB Yeats) and not something that should have been taken too literally. But perhaps you aren’t familiar with Yeats?

    http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~martinh/poems/yeats.html#september

    “John made a considered and totally non-sectarian assessment of the situation, whilst you engaged in schoolyard stupidity.”

    I simply don’t accept the bona fides of those who are suggesting that pitch size should be a reason why GAA should be excluded. As I said, if it was cricket I’d understand, but it’s not. A GAA pitch is bigger, but it’s not that much bigger. The recent success of the rugby internationals at Croker have debunked these arguments. (Incidentally, I don’t remember anyone arguing that Croker shouldn’t be used for rugby or soccer due to pitch size.)

    As I said, we have a long history of exclusion here, and there have always been “pitch is too big”-type rationalisations for this exclusion.

    And as I said: times have changed. Now, either rugby and soccer make room for GAA, or soccer and rugby suffer. The GAA doesn’t. It’d be a boon to the GAA to have a major, state-of-the-art stadium in Ulster, but it can survive without.

    Rugby needs this. Soccer is absolutely screwed without it. So soccer fans (in particular) need to start devoting their energies to figuring out ways to accommodate GAA, instead of trying to come up with unconvincing rationalisations for exclusion.

    “Your assertion that the GAA “doesn’t need the new stadium” is passed over without pausing to consider that this supports John’s views!”

    As I said, the GAA must not be punished and excluded from this publicly-funded stadium on the grounds that it’s too successful. Local soccer needs the GAA in this – the GAA is in a position of strength. So soccer fans should mind their manners, and stop acting as though it’s still the 1950s.

    “Personally I am in favour of a 30,000 stadium in Belfast.”

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Token Dissent

    “Personally I am in favour of a 30,000 stadium in Belfast.”

    Sorry, I meant to add: I’m in favour of a 45,000 stadium, which would be big enough for an Ulster final most years, as well as big enough for meaningful rugby internationals (say Scotland, Italy and Wales in the Six Nations, and Autumn Internationals and the southern hemisphere sides). GAA fans shouldn’t be shoehorned into a too-small stadium, and northern rugby fans shouldn’t be denied the chance to see serious internationals north of the border, on the grounds that soccer can’t pull the crowds. That’s soccer’s problem.

  • Token Dissent

    Thanks for the clarification George. What are the current attendances at Casement? Is it not the case that the number of GAA games played at any new stadium that would attract a large crowd is limited?

    I hope that a solution can be found that facilitates all three sports. Sport and the stadium could be useful agents for community relations etc. But I believe that selecting the Maze would be counter-productive to this aspiration. The Maze is very decisive, and alienates a wide range of people.

  • George

    Token,
    attendances at Casement don’t come into it. It’s building a stadium that meets the needs of the 3 codes that matters.

    The new stadium would have to be well over 40,000 (closer to 45,000 probably) to meet the needs of the GAA.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    TD

    “What are the current attendances at Casement? Is it not the case that the number of GAA games played at any new stadium that would attract a large crowd is limited?”

    It’d be rare enough that Casement would be full – last time I was there for a full house was summer ’05, when Armagh and Derry drew more than 30,000 for an Ulster semi. But Casement has the disadvantage of having been scandalously underused by the Ulster council since the outbreak of the Troubles, due to a serious bias towards Clones (with its larger capacity, favourable tax incentives and absence of security issues).

    This might however be redressed by the availability of a state-of-the-art 45,000 capacity stadium in the greater Belfast area. (The GAA’s Ulster stadiums are large, popular and historically resonant, but all have large, uncovered terraces, and usually only one grandstand that could be regarded as modern.)

    The more pertinent statistic is that the Ulster Championship last year drew almost a quarter of a million fans over all. Factor in double-headers, a semi-final and final, perhaps an attractive All-Ireland qualifier, an AI quarter final and perhaps an international test against the Aussies (if the series survives) and GAA could probably fill the stadium a dozen times every two years. That would make the GAA by far the major tenant.

    “I hope that a solution can be found that facilitates all three sports.”

    It must be, otherwise there simply won’t be a stadium.

  • Realist

    I want a 30,000 stadium in Belfast.

    I am more than happy that the facilty is shared between football, rugby and GAA.

    Seems to me tho that the GAA and rugby fraternity don’t need a new stadium.

    The Maze project is under presure – and this will intensify, as people begin to wake up to the economic realities of putting the stadium there.

    “So soccer fans (in particular) need to start devoting their energies to figuring out ways to accommodate GAA, instead of trying to come up with unconvincing rationalisations for exclusion”

    Hi Billy,

    There’s a certain irony when one reads the GAA’s Rule 44. To this day, an organisation who excludes.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Realist

    “There’s a certain irony when one reads the GAA’s Rule 44. To this day, an organisation who excludes.”

    The difference is that the GAA reserves the right to decide who gets to use their grounds – the new stadium would not be the property of any one sporting organisation. This isn’t a case of the GAA asking soccer or rugby for the use of their property – it’s not like other sporting bodies are queueing up begging to use Windsor. The fact that soccer is in dire staits is not a reason why the GAA should be expected to tolerate exclusion.

    Quite a few soccer fans on here are contorting themselves looking for reasons to exclude the GAA, acting as though the new stadium is “theirs”. It kinda gets my goat.

    And as you say, GAA and rugby don’t really need this new stadium – but that’s soccer’s problem, no-one else’s.

  • Realist

    Billy,

    I’m not sure where this notion of “excluding” the GAA from a new stadium comes from?

    On my part, I don’t care who shares the stadium.

    It’s all about location and economics.

    The Maze plans are fast dying – I am not unhappy about that.

    Expect to see support for a Belfast stadium gain more momentum in the coming weeks and months.

    My understanding is that any new stadium in Belfast will not neccessarily be dependent on support from all three codes – as is the case with The Maze proposals.

    If a Belfast stadium doesn’t suit the GAA, so be it.

    My understanding is that the GAA have vetoed both the stadium location and size up to this point – out of selfish interest. “The Maze, or we’re not in”, seems to be the GAA’s position.

    Odd for an organisation that obviously doesn’t need a new stadium.

    If the stadium goes ahead in Belfast, nobody will exclude the GAA but themselves.

  • Realist

    I would just like to point out that Gaelic games are played on the Ravenhill Road every week, and that “nationalist” football teams regularly play at the existing Ormeau Park facilities.

    The arguement that the Ormeau location would not be “safe” for the GAA fraternity is totally spurious.

  • nothere

    As a rugby fan who goes to most Ulster matches, I don’t know a single fan who supports a stadium near lisburn.

    Can anyone think of a successful stadium anywhere in the world built in the back arse of nowhere? I’ve never heard of any.

    If lansdowne road or Croke were being built now, does anyone think they’d even consider locating ten miles outside of Dublin? Honestly?

    As for people who say you can’t build on Ormeau park, have you ever been in Ormeau Park? It’s shit, especially the end nearest town; there’s nothing there. It’s just empty grass, the Ozone, and then the river. No-one uses it. South Belfast has plenty of green space.

  • “Quite a few soccer fans on here are contorting themselves looking for reasons to exclude the GAA, acting as though the new stadium is “theirs”.”

    Billy your increasingly obtuse efforts to hide behind false accusations of sectarianism only bely your own sectarian agenda to see football in Northern Ireland lose out.

    If you can be bothered you can check the discussions on this issue at OurWeeCountry where, as well as seeing that nobody really blames the GAA for looking for the best deal for GAA, you’ll see I was defending the ground sharing plans at the beginning saying that the government had promised to take the pitch size into account when designing the stadium, eg with retractable seating, and capacity, by closing off sections for football. It was only after having discussed this with people in the real world who know more about it than I do, that I came to the opinion that it wasn’t feasible. If someone shows me a plan that can work, I’d be delighted to support it.

    Also, Realist is right. The Belfast proposals don’t require support from all 3 codes for funding. Both Rugby and Football want a Belfast site. The GAA can’t be blamed for looking to get the best deal for themselves out of the government, but as they vetoed all the sites in Belfast it’ll be their own problem if the stadium there isn’t designed to accommodate them.

  • roxy

    “If the stadium goes ahead in Belfast, nobody will exclude the GAA but themselves.”

    If the stadium goes ahead it will be a victory for the sectarian and bigoted support of the n.i football team.

    Its important that these bogots are faced down on the stadium issue ad they don’t get there way by excluding the biggest supported sport in the country.

    Time to stand up to the ‘ no surrender’ brigade at Windsor Park.

  • Doctor Who

    Billy Pilgrim

    “One: it’s not for the fans of either soccer or rugby to extend a welcome to GAA. The new stadium either belongs to all three or it doesn’t happen at all – ”

    Says who Billy. You have alredy said the GAA do not need a stadium. You wont go to the Odyssey or Ormeau because you might see a Prod, you might go to the Maze because you will only see cows and you can pop in to the Hunger Srike memorial museum.

    Football fans and Rugby fans (the ones who will use the stadium, not the armchair ones) have stated a prefernce for Belfast City Centre, if the GAA don´t want that, fine we will leave them behind.

    No where else in Ireland until this year have the GAA shared a stadium. The arangement at Croke Park is only temporary and it took alot of persauding to get them to work with the IRFU and FAI. So if they wish to drag their heels in Northern Ireland, I say leave them behind.

    The Antrim branch of the GAA showed what they thought of inclusiveness when they allowed the pro IRA hunger strike celebration at Casement Park. So one would be forgiven to think that they have no intention of sharing with the other bodies.

    A national stadium for Northern Ireland is much needed and needed soon, as you rightly pointed out earlier, Windsor Park has recently suffered structural damage to the North Stand and now the Railway stand is to close. This is an international venue, and while the rest of the UK have remarkable football stadiums Northern Ireland has not.

    Billy, you are motivated by sectarianism, you want the GAA to veto any move for a stadium in Belfast just to spoil the party for the rest of us.

  • nothere

    Again looking at Ormeau Park, if foot bridges were built across the river, it’s under 500m from the markets and about 650m to the lower Ormaeau village. Neither route being through any Loyalist ghettoes; so where’s the safety problem?

  • notthere

    “Its such a great location that they will have to ‘build bridges’ to get the fenians into the ground”

    Cool mentality! What a witty one-liner! Awesome! What’s the point?

    If it was built, the bridges would be built anyway to allow city centre access.

    There will be a Belfast City Stadium built reg

  • belfastwhite

    Dr Who

    The Antrim branch of the GAA showed what they thought of inclusiveness when they allowed the pro IRA hunger strike celebration at Casement Park. So one would be forgiven to think that they have no intention of sharing with the other bodies.

    So I take it your idea of inclusiveness would be the exclusion of republicans?

    Incidently does anyone know if Casement Park or any other GAA facility was ever thrown into the hat as a possible site for the stadium?

  • Ulster McNulty

    nothere

    “Can anyone think of a successful stadium anywhere in the world built in the back arse of nowhere? I’ve never heard of any.”

    Then you haven’t heard of The New York Giants stadium, Meadowlands – it’s not even in New York…it’s not even in New York State.

    They moved there when they discovered they could build a larger stadium, outside a densely populated city. It’s been a huge success. It can accomodate soccer as well as Football – you might remember the Republic of ireland beating Italy there in 1994 world cup. It was a highly successful move, they even had room to build a horse racing track right beside it.

    I agree with all those people who think central Belfast is the ideal location, emotionally, it feels right. However, it’s not an ideal world and there is nowhere to put it in Belfast, without having a negative impact on the city enviroment, roads etc.

  • “So I take it your idea of inclusiveness would be the exclusion of republicans?”

    No, just political rallies – particularly those glorifying terrorists (of any hue).

    “Incidently does anyone know if Casement Park or any other GAA facility was ever thrown into the hat as a possible site for the stadium?”

    No they weren’t. The SIB looked at 10 (ish) original submissions (neither the GAA, IRFU or Linfield submitted any of their grounds as potential sites). This was narrowed to 3: the Maze, Titanic Quarter and North Foreshore. There was some farce of a site selection exercise, which many believe was foregone conclusion, and the SIB plumped for the Maze.

    Then BCC came along and asked developers for proposals in Belfast. Along came Ormeau Park and Maysfield (TQ had already been earmarked for something else by this stage).

  • james

    “No, just political rallies – particularly those glorifying terrorists (of any hue).”

    Does this mean that the IFA will not be allowed to commemorate terrorist leaders in the new stadium, as they did for pup/uvf head Irvine.

  • BP1078

    Interesting piece in tonight’s Telegraph re yesterday’s decision (sorry not on line yet).

    Hanson has apparently told the committee that a Stormont administration could take over the stadium issue.

    Having been involved with others (howdy there Beano;)) in contacting candidates for their views on this prior to the recent election, I reckon if it is left to the Assembly, then the Maze proposal is looking even more dodgy in this case.

    So for this reason, if no other, lets hope the clowns do get back sharpish to the Big Circus on the Hill.

  • Ulster McNulty

    “Then BCC came along and asked developers for proposals in Belfast. Along came Ormeau Park and Maysfield (TQ had already been earmarked for something else by this stage).”

    Interesting. It was a bad, bad decision to close down Maysfield and a blow to city centre leisure facilities. The idea that you can build any kind of a sports stadium there is ludicrous (and don’t say “it’s right beside the train station”)

    When you say “BCC” do you mean politicians or planners or who?

    The north foreshore seems like a good location, it’s got room for development it’s minutes from the city centre, it’s got pretty good transport access to evrywhere else and nobody lives there. Wildlife might be an issue depending where exactly you put it, and the ground may be too muddy. But it would be the ideal location.

  • Doctor Who

    james

    “Does this mean that the IFA will not be allowed to commemorate terrorist leaders in the new stadium, as they did for pup/uvf head Irvine.”

    This is news fella, can´t find any link whatsoever to the IFA holding a rally at Windsor Park to celebrate terrorists.

    Belfastwhite

    “So I take it your idea of inclusiveness would be the exclusion of republicans?”

    Not at all, all people of all political backgrounds should be welcome. I just find the idea that to use sporting facilities to glorify terrorists deplorable. If such a thing where to be sanctioned by the IFA at Windsor Park, I and most GAWA would oppose it.

  • Paul

    Re: “the discussions on this issue at OurWeeCountry where, as well as seeing that nobody really blames the GAA for looking for the best deal for GAA.”

    I’m surprised that ourweecountry is now the official barometer of tolerance.
    The last time I ran this search, it was full of quite obsessive GAA bashers.
    http://www.google.co.uk/search?num=100&hl=en&client=firefox-a&channel=s&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&q=gaa+site:ourweecountry.ipbhost.com&btnG=Search&meta=

    Re: “If someone shows me a plan that can work, I’d be delighted to support it.”
    You really don’t have to look too hard.
    Croke Park showed that all three can co-exist.
    For a refresher,look here:
    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=croke+park+ireland+england&m=tags&page=2
    And remember that the proposed NI stadium is only half the size of Croker.
    There should be no loss of atmosphere.
    Imho, NI soccer fans should start to have more confidence in their ability to attract larger crowds.
    Remember the stadium itself will be a huge attraction. Look at Welsh international attendances / GAA attendances when Millenium / Croker were built.
    Once your new fans start going, its up to the marketing men to keep them coming back.

    Re “The Belfast proposals don’t require support from all 3 codes for funding.”
    Oh, but they do really – the site is public property.
    There is no way on this planet that the GAA/ Nationalist electorate will tolerate any attempt to back any substantively public funded stadium that excludes the best attended local sport. It stinks of exclusionism.
    Us GAA folk remember only too well how the British Govt paid for the shiny new North Stand at Windsor in 1983, whilst denying any equivalent aid to the GAA, even though our attendances were many times bigger, and our grounds were absolutely decrepit and unsafe.

    Furthermore, if the capacity of Ormeau is so limited that it is of absolutely no use to the largest of the three bodies, then it is quite clear that any talk of including the GAA is merely lip service.

    Its notable that the early mock-ups of the proposed Ormeau stadium show that the proposed pitch is nowhere big enough for gaelic games.
    Don’t believe me? – then look at this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/luandme/175689389/
    Says it all really – the Ormeau backers never wanted the GAA anywhere near it.

  • roger

    Maysfield is being used as a pay off for the proposed Ormeau ‘stadium’.It is one of the most sought after, multi million pound sites in the city

    Maysfield was the only accessable council facility close to the city centre that could be used by office workers and residents alike.

    It was never offered for continued use as a sports or recreatonal facility, public or private.

    Belfast CC has been happy for it to be used as a film set for the last couple of years, now it seems it will be used as a pay off for a waste of time on the Ormeau embankment

  • Paul

    Doctor Who:

    I laughed at your well crafted reply to Billy Pilgrim when he challenges those who wish to exclude the GAA. :
    “You wont go to the Odyssey or Ormeau because you might see a Prod, you might go to the Maze because you will only see cows and you can pop in to the Hunger Srike memorial museum.”

    Well that shows us all what side of the sectarian fence you’re on.
    Just for the record there are many non shinners in the GAA.
    I have memories of family members standing up to hunger strike supporters when they tried to collect / canvas during county down club games.
    It is not often acknowledged how seriously the hunger strike split the gaa ranks in the north then.

    Re:
    “the Antrim branch of the GAA showed what they thought of inclusiveness when they allowed the pro IRA hunger strike celebration at Casement Park. So one would be forgiven to think that they have no intention of sharing with the other bodies.”

    You do have the semblance of a coherent argument when you mention the behaviour of the Antrim branch of the GAA.
    If you do drag their behaviour into the debate, I do think it’s important to mention that the Antrim branch proceeded against the clear wishes of the GAA body as a whole.
    It’s also noteworthy that the Antrim branch appear to be the only ones who advocate a rejection of the Maze (their reason being an attempt to preserve the staus quo and continue to have matches at casement.)

    Re:
    “Does this mean that the IFA will not be allowed to commemorate terrorist leaders in the new stadium, as they did for pup/uvf head Irvine.”
    This is news fella, can´t find any link whatsoever to the IFA holding a rally at Windsor Park to celebrate terrorists. [David Ervine]

    I think belfastwhite is referring to a minutes silence held in the Oval to mark David Ervine’s death. Cliftonville were playing at the time, and quite a few of their fans were understandably non-plussed.
    But again in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that it wasn’t the IFA as a whole who santioned the move, but the South Antrim board of the IFA, or some unit like that.
    Its an eerily close parallel to the behaviour of the Antrim GAA really, acting without authority of the body as a whole.

  • Paul

    Terracetoff

    I can assure you that most GAA people across Ulster would plump for the Maze over Belfast, if only for convenience.

    Driving into Belfast adds so much time to the predominantly rural GAA fan base.
    The only serious dissention would come from within Antrim who would prefer no stadium anywhere, and for the GAA to play more games in Casement.

    Personally, I have no problem walking up and down the (Upper) Ravenhill road, now or any time.
    But if I was there with 41999 other GAA fans, dressed in a GAA top, then I would be aware that there would be a small significant element, within easy walking distance, who could easily wander down and take delight in giving me a kicking.
    Afaik, I did not introduce a sectarian argument. I was merely relaying the GAA rationale about why they prefer a site outside Belfast.

    Nobody here can deny that anti GAA bigotry exists. You only have to look at the diatribe in the ourweecountry site above.
    Unfortunately there are headcases who believe DUP guff about the GAA being the IRA at play, etc.

    Whilst not impossible, its a lot less likely that these saddos would drive all the way out to the Maze to give a kicking.
    If they did, they would be more likely to be caught anyway. That’s the reality of the great wee place that we live in.
    If you read my posts fully, you will se that I was inviting Maze rejectionists to offer alternative sites.

    Developing a new stadium at Ormeau and simultaneously paying for the construction of new one at Casement is economic madness and pure waste. I take it that both would have built to the same high standard to counteract accusations of bias?
    If so, Casement, with a bigger pitch and larger crowds would end up costing far more to the taxpayer than Ormeau. Nuts economically. The only justification would be trying to exclude the GAA from some little OrangeDome.

    More importantly, sidelining the GAA sends out an appalling message to the Nationalist community that they are to somehow be treated differently.

    I do think there is some merit in the GAA’s hesitation in regarding Belfast as neutral and safe.
    But I’m sure their reluctance is not set in stone.
    Are there any Belfast sites that offer more security / neutrality than the Maze?
    If so, let everybody the GAA and everybody else know about it.
    If the irfu and ifa really do find the Maze unpalatable, then why haven’t we heard about it before?
    It would be easy for them to say yes to sharing a 35k/42k stadium with the GAA, but just somewhere else.

    To be totally honest, I think location is of less importance than ensuring that any new stadium is available for all three sports.
    But the GAA do need a 40k+ stadium. Any 20k stadium effectively excludes them.
    And they need the stadium pitch to be big enough to play gaelic games. Any smaller pitch obviously excludes them.

    Leaving location aside for the minute, other aspects should be workable for all three bodies.
    The 35k standing / 42k mixed standing & seated capacity is a good compromise on capacity.
    Rugby and soccer at Croke Park proves that there should be no problem regarding the size of pitch.

    If we can all agree on these two points, then as long as a 42k stadium, big enough for GAA, is built somewhere in NI, then I’m happy.

  • Pete Baker

    Paul

    “I think belfastwhite is referring to a minutes silence held in the Oval to mark David Ervine’s death. Cliftonville were playing at the time, and quite a few of their fans were understandably non-plussed.

    But again in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that it wasn’t the IFA as a whole who santioned the move, but the South Antrim board of the IFA, or some unit like that.

    Its an eerily close parallel to the behaviour of the Antrim GAA really, acting without authority of the body as a whole.”

    It’s an even closer parallel to the Assembly which held a similiar reverential silence, actually suspended business, for David Ervine.. and not a single member visibly non-plussed..

    Them damn sectarian politicians…

    But they keep getting elected.

  • Ulster McNulty

    “It was never offered for continued use as a sports or recreatonal facility, public or private.”

    Yeah, it was obvious that BCC were not acting in the interest of Belfast’s ratepayers who actually participate in sports on an everyday basis.

    Same again, they aren’t acting in the best interests of Belfast residents and ratepayers with the Ormeau proposal from both an enviromental and transport point if view.

    Can’t wait till the assembly gets up an running. With all those extra billions we need to make sure we don’t go back to war maybe every park in a town centre can have a stadium.

  • BP1078

    Afaik, I did not introduce a sectarian argument. I was merely relaying the GAA rationale about why they prefer a site outside Belfast.

    Nobody here can deny that anti GAA bigotry exists. You only have to look at the diatribe in the ourweecountry site above.

    Nobody denies bigotry exists Paul, for example buses carrying NI supporters are regularly stoned travelling past both the Westlink and also the Markets. It would appear that you have simply googled the OWC site for anti GAA references, if you take the time to read through the links you’ll find that there are those who criticise the more rabid contributions.
    I could post up a few threads from the gaa message board that would make you curl with embarrassment; one of the trolls who has been polluting this thread is prominent amongst the more sectarian of contributers, it is only through respect for Slugger that I don’t start a flame war with the cxnt-and I think you probably know exactly who I mean…

    Which is all a long way round of saying is yes, sporting bigotry is a problem here, but despite what you and others may claim it is not one way…

    Which is all a slight diversion from saying that you seem to be making the argumnet for the Maze based solely on these safety grounds.

    Ignore us rejectionists, be positive- set out your arguments on solid objective grounds re car access, public transport, the business and tourism potential for the Maze site.

    If you can’t (then join the private investors who are keeping their money in the pocket) then why are we proceeding with it?

    If it’s no to the Maze, then the next step is for us to consider the other options; each sport has its own agenda in this argument, there is nothing inherently sectarian in fighting your own corner to make sure you get the best for your own sport-that’s exactly what you and Billy P and the other GAA fans will be doing,not just us.

  • GavBelfast

    If you look here:

    http://www.arc-property.co.uk/Bellevue.php

    … you will see that much of Ormeau Park (ie. the attractive majority of it) remains in-tact.

    In fact, the prospectus makes that clear, too:

    http://www.cityofbelfaststadium.com/docs/Press-releaseDEC2005.pdf

    The Maze is Politically rather than sports driven and I do hope that the GAA hasn’t somehow put itself in a position (or be used by other “interested parties”) of “Maze or nothing” because the whole Maze project means no stadium, no conflict shrine, and vice-versa. Don’t forget: SF was dead against any sort of facility at the Maze when the idea first emerged.

    I would stress that if a way that is OK for all three sports to play on is found, then I’m pretty easy about that – to sound like a broken record again: location, location, location.

  • Uster McNulty

    BP1078

    “Ignore us rejectionists, be positive- set out your arguments on solid objective grounds re car access, public transport, the business and tourism potential for the Maze site.”

    You ignore us conributors who have been been making arguments on objective grounds – admit it, you love those sectarian arguments (and that goes for the person you were adressing).

  • Ulster McNulty

    GavBelfast

    “The Maze is Politically rather than sports driven..”

    Simply untrue. Go back to page one and read the thread in it’s entirety. It isn’t just yourself but all posters who can’t see beyond sectarian issues that sound like a broken, dysfuntional record.

    You link to the BCC propaganda machine. It has been proved before that BCC would sell their mothers for property redevelopment if they could get away with it – which they can – ref – maysfield.

  • Doctor Who

    Paul

    “Us GAA folk remember only too well how the British Govt paid for the shiny new North Stand at Windsor in 1983, whilst denying any equivalent aid to the GAA, even though our attendances were many times bigger, and our grounds were absolutely decrepit and unsafe.”

    Sorry Paul. But Windsor Park pre Espana 82 was even worse than it is today, if that is possible. Attendances of 30,000 where not unusual in this period and the facilities where like they are today, atrocious. The North Stand should have been just the beginning of a complete overhaul of the stadium. Can´t find any links to attendances at Casement Park in this period, but another poster has said 30,000 for a more recent match for Antrim v Armagh.

    Also at that time it was GAA policy not to coperate with “da Bratish”. Now at council level do you not remember the successful campaign against Craigavon Council for underfunding the St. Peters (correct me if i´m wrong) GAA club in Lurgan. Some Unionist coucillors where rightly banned from office and surchrged for abuse of power.

    Instead of pointing the finger at the British govt. Why not have a go at the GAA, who favoured building a spanking new stadium in Clones, to represent the centre of GAA in Ulster.

    The plans you refer to, are a mock up and the designers may not be aware of the differnce in pitch size, very easily remedied.

    I do agree with your point that safer, comfortable surroundings will attract more people to the stadium, your example of the milenium stadium is a case in point. The millenium stadium is in the heart of Cardiff, it has ample conference space as well as being a sporting arena. I was there when Northern Ireland drew 2.2 with Wales in a 70,000 crowd. The proposed Belfast City stadium should have a tighter atmosphere, with a capacity of 30,000.

    It will be up to the GAA if they want to use it and I think that pitch provisions should take that into account. If as some posters say that the GAA don´t need it, well then let them apply for upgrades at Casement and let the rest of us enjoy a new national stadium in the heart of Belfast city for everyone to enjoy.

  • BP1078

    Ulster McNulty
    You ignore us conributors who have been been making arguments on objective grounds – admit it, you love those sectarian arguments (and that goes for the person you were adressing).

    Au contraire dear Ulster, this morning I made this response to your assertion last night about the Maze’s great transport possibilities…no answer from yourself.

    I’ve reprinted it below for you to save the trouble of having to work through such a tedious thread…may be you’d care to answer my points now?

    There are 250,000 car drivers in Belfast, really?

    People already go to Windsor, Casement, Ravenhill etc. The same people will still go to any new stadium, to see the same number of events. No extra activity occurs.

    You haven’t taken into consideration internal tourism (ie people travelling in to watch concerts and other events organised at such a stadium) but let’s assume you’re right, stadiums don’t attract tourism… but that exact same argument would also apply to the Maze Stadium. Foreign tourists will not travel up and walk a several kilometers fromm the nearest train station to look at a Maze Stadium.
    They may go up to look at the proposed Conflict Centre or whatever else is being proposed to be built there, but there is no reason why that can not go ahead independent of the stadium.

    As Norman points out above the transport argument is also totally spurious. The Maze can be much more easily and quickly accessed by a majority of people from different locations in Northern Ireland than a Belfast city centre can.

    OK, here we go again.

    1. Is Belfast the transport hub for NI, yes or no?

    2.The M1, M2, M3, M5 and major ‘A roads’ all meet in central Belfast. All rail lines lead to Belfast. More bus routes facilitate Belfast than anywhere else in Northern Ireland. Two airports and the sea port also serve the city
    Do you dispute any of that data?

    3.There is no rail link close to the propsed Maze site (and none planned)
    Yes or no?

    If the answer is “yes” some details please.
    If the answer is “no” then logically….

    4…It will rely on visitors coming by car or coach and the need for a junction to be added.

    One junction (paid out of ultimately taxpayers pockets) serving the estimated 40,000, at let’s say an Ulster GAA final, does that sound feasible or practical to you?
    OK, despite the local DUP objections, they decide to build a couple of soulless stadium bars to keep the fans happy, will that attract people to come to the game any earlier, or will we still face the prospect of over 40,000 fans heading in their cars and buses (no trains remember) at the same time on that one junction?

    I’m not sure which site in Belfast makes most sense, but looking at all factors objectively it’s clear that the Maze should be a non-starter.

    Answers, anyone? Bueller?
    (

  • GavBelfast

    Ulster McNulty,

    All you did with that last contribution was throw around guff with the “sectarian” word in it.

    For what it’s worth, I used to think the Maze project was a good idea, I kinda fell for the fairy-tale all-playing together, a new start from a bad past, etc, stuff.

    Then I started to examine it, look at other scenarios and, of course, there’s the smoke and mirrors of the NIO/SIB role in all of this.

    I’ll be content if the three sports make good use of a suitable stadium that all can live with – but in Belfast, where it can work, not in an unsustainable field quite near Lisburn.

  • Ulster McNulty

    BP1078

    “I’ve reprinted it below for you to save the trouble of having to work through such a tedious thread..”

    No trouble at all, but you’ve misprinted it – twice!

    “Is Belfast the transport hub for NI, yes or no?”

    It certainly is and the Maze is located right on that hub, with the added advantage that it can be accessed by large numbers of vehicle much easier than Belfast city centre can.

    “..but that exact same argument would also apply to the Maze Stadium”

    Nobody, as far as I have heard is making that argument for the Maze.

    “3.There is no rail link close to the propsed Maze site (and none planned)
    Yes or no?”

    No, it would be pretty strange if no rail link was built. You can be sure it would be serviced by a rail link.

    “The M1, M2, M3, M5 and major ‘A roads’ all meet in central Belfast”

    Thus creating a major bottleneck, that can’t happen at the Maze.

    “Two airports and the sea port also serve the city
    Do you dispute any of that data?”

    Yes, one airport is in Belfast. But don’t let a name full you, the larger airport isn’t in Belfast and it’s probably closer to the Maze.

    “One junction…” – accept it, the way we like to travel favours the Maze, you can’t argue about that. Fans will be travelling mostly by car and coach and large numbers of those can be accomodated at the Maze a hell of a lot more easily than Belfast city centre.

  • BP1078

    It certainly is and the Maze is located right on that hub…

    I got as far as that and stopped…..

    Good Night Ulster.

  • Ulster McNulty

    GavBelfast

    “.. guff with the “sectarian” word in it”

    It isn’t guff, the majority of posts boil down to “The GAA commemorates terrorists”, “The IFA commemorates terrorists”.

    It’s all irrelevant to the matter in hand, i’d love to see some convincing arguments about where this stadium should be located. I find it hard to believe that it has become…

    nationalist = Maze
    unionists = Ormeau (local political interests aside)

  • Ulster McNulty

    BP1078

    “I got as far as that and stopped…..”

    I’m not surpised, I couldn’t see how you were going to argue the M1 motorway doesn’t constitute part of the Belfast transport hub (but Aldergrove does!!!), maybe you think the M1 comes to a dead end in Lisburn and Glengormley and Antrim are the same place?

    Goodnight, but I’ll aleays be wondering if you were fit to tackle the other points.

  • Doctor Who

    Ulster McNulty

    Do you not think that the people who are going to use the stadium should be consulted. Northern Ireland fans and Rugby fans definately don´t want the maze. I would go as far as saying that most GAA fans would prefer Belfast as well.

    Those people who are trying to turn it into a sectarian argument, will not use the stadium.

    A new stadium in the heart of Belfast is the only way to make the venture profitable. Most of the connecting infrasturctures are already there i.e transport, hotels, leisure areas, population centre, business, media etc. etc.

    Like another poster I was originally sold on the Maze idea, as i was taken in by the artificial benefits mooted by the govt. pretty soon however I did see what a ridiculous proposition the maze was.

    There has been some contributions from southerners like the poster called George, whose motives for the Maze while not purely sectarian, knows that the Maze site is probably more bebeficial to sunday GAA than it is to mid week evening football. Billy Pilgrim points out that “the success of GAA” means that the venture should be where they want. He knows the maze will be detrimental to the needs of Ulster Rugby fans and Northern Ireland football fans, but he doesn´t care because that doesn´t affect him.

    I have even seen on previous threads with a similar theme, contributors proposing that an all ireland football side play the opening match at the Maze as a kind of George Best memorial. So in conclusion the folk that favour the Maze see an all Ireland angle, so the needs of the Northern Ireland football followers are irrelevant to them.

  • vic

    ..Northern Ireland fans and Rugby fans definately don´t want the maze..

    I personally don’t like being lumped in with football fans.

    I have been an Ulster rugby fan for over twenty years and would be quite happy to travel to the Maze for a provincial game.

    I think the concept has huge potential and feel that ulster rugby has made great strides over the last few years in getting support from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland.

    The recent changes in the international set up. i.e. moving to Croke Park for a few years, has certainly opened my eyes as a Unionist.

    The GAA have made us very welcome at their home and i would be only to happy to share our home ground with the Gaelic teams in the future.

    Politics will always have a part in some supporters thinking, but as an Ulsterman i look forward to the day when we can share a sporting future in a stadium fit for the great sportsmen of our country.

    The Maze is a hell of a lot closer than Lansdowne/Croke Park, so lets make it work.

  • Doctor Who

    vic

    I am an Ulster Rugby fan, but primarily a Northern Ireland football fan. Just what is the potential at the maze you talk about.

    Strange that you feel welcome at Croke when I never felt welcome at Landsdowne. Apart from the whole anthem thing I was asked to shove my brit flag (cross of St. Patrick) up my arse.

    You are in very small minority of Ulster Rugby fans if you prefer the Maze and you validate my point when I said those with an all Ireland agenda favour the Maze. You say the
    maze is closer than Dublin. By 15 miles yes, so what, now what makes you think any stadium in the North is going to see regular Ireland Rugby internationals.

    VIC???? Unionist???? Had your eyes open???? are you sure your not indulging in a bit of late night trolling.

  • Crataegus

    George

    Perhaps because if it was at the Maze it would then be an over 40,000 capacity stadium which is what the GAA needs rather than a smaller one in Belfast which it already has.

    There is absolutely no reason why you cannot build a 50,000 or indeed 80,000 stadium in Belfast if that is what is required. First you need to set the design criteria. (safety, public transport, existing infrastructure, regeneration, return for investment etc) It is that simple you set the criteria then on that basis you ask for proposals.
    A stadium is a large building but the footprint is not as large as many think and if the government departments cooperate much is possible.

  • Crataegus

    Vic

    I am a developer the Maze site would require massive investment in associated road works and infa structure. Firstly not everyone will come to the site using the M1 so you would need to adress the many shortcomings of the local road network. You would then need slip roads from the motorway and bridges across it and roundabouts and road widening. It would cost many tens of millions. This expenditure cannot be justified for the sake of a stadium that is used how many times a year? It is a bad return for money. The only way it would work is for a fundamental change of planning policy or rather state authorised breaches of current policy and rezoning the entire surrounding area. It is that bad. It is not a practical option in financial terms.

  • JG

    Don’t you need to be a nation before you can have a national stadium?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Beano

    Fine, call me names all you like. I’d rather try to discuss this a little more constructively though.

    Look, what it boils down to is this: if the stadium is built with a playing surface 130 metres long, it’s bog enough for all three codes. If the playing surface is only 115 metres, then Gaelic games can’t play there. If the stadium is built with a 45k capacity, then it can be used for GAA Ulster finals, Irish rugby internationals, any soccer match (including UEFA Cup finals), large concerts, major Olympic events (say a soccer semi-final), maybe even a Papal visit – whatever we want. If it’s built with a capacity of 30,000 or less, it’s ideal for soccer and the Ulster rugby team, but too small to be worth the GAA’s while, too small for rugby internationals and large-scale international events.

    So we have on one hand the proposal for a larger stadium, which involves local soccer (the smallest of the three main sporting constituencies) having to live with a world-class stadium that is slightly less than perfect for soccer (though the goalposts would still be closer to the fans than is the case at Hampden Park); or the proposal for a smaller stadium, which would have the effect of excluding GAA as it would simply be impossible to play there (someone earlier suggested that the GAA would just have to play its games on a truncated pitch – better that than soccer fans having to sit a few more metres from the touchlines).

    You have called me sectarian – why? Because I’m resisting arguments in favour of the exclusion of the GAA? You might say you’re not arguing for exclusion – you’re simply arguing for a set-up that would make the GAA’s inclusion impossible. I’m saying that it’s not unreasonable to ask soccer fans (and it IS always soccer fans, rarely rugby) to sit ten metres behind the goals instead of five, but it IS unreasonable to tell the GAA that they can either play on a truncated pitch or else get lost.

    Nowhere am I arguing that soccer and rugby should be excluded for the new stadium, nor am I calling for provisions that would make it impossible for them to use it. Soccer fans are doing so. I can understand that they’d rather have a stadium purpose-built for soccer, but that simply isn’t possible, so let’s move on.

    As for arguments about atmosphere: a packed house of 45,000 would have a spectacular atmosphere. GAA matches could pull 45k. Rugby internationals could pull 45k. In the past, soccer internationals have pulled those sort of crowds – it’s a challenge that local soccer has to face to make itself more attractive and pull the big crowds. GAA and rugby should not have their ambitions frustrated because of the relative unpopularity of, and lack of ambition within local soccer.

    “It was only after having discussed this with people in the real world who know more about it than I do, that I came to the opinion that it wasn’t feasible. If someone shows me a plan that can work, I’d be delighted to support it.”

    I’m in favour of a rectangular stadium in the Titanic Quarter, ideally with Samson and Goliath flanking either end, with a capacity of 45k+ (including standing areas, for GAA and rugby) or c.40k (with bucket seating on terraces, for soccer, so we can go for UEFA 4 star rating and qualify for a UEFA cup final). The playing surface would be c.130 metres (distance from front row to goalpost would be less than at Hampden and nowhere near as far as the old Wembley).

    What do you think?

    “Also, Realist is right. The Belfast proposals don’t require support from all 3 codes for funding.”

    The British government has made it very clear that any publicly-funded stadium must be endorsed by all three. If private developers in tandem with Belfast city council are talking about building somewhere in Belfast, then clearly that’s a separate issue. But say you’re a private developer – you’re building a stadium because you want to make money, right? You’d be in the business of pulling crowds. Wouldn’t it then be madness to build it so that it’d be useless to the biggest crowd-puller in Ulster?

    “Both Rugby and Football want a Belfast site…. it’ll be their own problem if the stadium there isn’t designed to accommodate them.”

    Of course you’re right, there will be negotiations ahead. But the point I was making earlier is this: the GAA is in by far the strongest position going into those negotiations, soccer by far the weakest. And yet it’s soccer fans who are behaving high-handedly and cooking up excuses to exclude the strongest of the associations. It’s madness – an attitude straight from the 1950s. Remember, the reality is that if the GAA walks away, you and fewer than 9,000 others will be in Windsor for a long time to come. I don’t want that for local soccer, but if that’s what happens, it’ll not be my fault, or that of the GAA.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Realist

    “I’m not sure where this notion of “excluding” the GAA from a new stadium comes from?”

    I think you’d agree that building it in such a way that makes it impossible for the GAA to use it is much the same thing?

    “On my part, I don’t care who shares the stadium. It’s all about location and economics.”

    There’s the thing. GAA fans DO have legitimate security concerns about some Belfast locations – this seems to me to be a more compelling argument than that of Belfast-based fans who consider Lisburn to be an unreasonably long trek. (You city boys think the world ends at Glengormley and Finaghy!) I am in favour of a Belfast site, but security concerns are real. (You can surely accept that there would be security issues if NI were to play at a redeveloped Casement? Equally a GAA match on the Ravenhill Road would raise security issues.) Also, the GAA is predominantly a rural sport, and most GAA fans in Ulster would pass Lisburn en route to a match in Belfast. However, the difference isn’t that great.
    Point is, I don’t think it’d be that hard to come up with proposals that all three bodies could easily live with – but this tendency of soccer fans to cook up schemes to exclude GAA are unhelpful in the extreme, and invoke in the nationalist psyche the bad old days.

    “My understanding is that any new stadium in Belfast will not neccessarily be dependent on support from all three codes – as is the case with The Maze proposals.”

    As I said above, if it’s government funded, all three have to be in. If it’s privately funded, then market share comes in, and no businessman in his right mind would exclude any sport that might be relied on to pull crowds – especially the sport that has the largest market share and might be relied on to pull the biggest crowds on the most consistent basis. From a purely business perspective, a Belfast stadium represents a bit of a punt, and that’s with all three sports on board. Any developer will have to move mountains to attract all three. So if it’s publicly funded, the GAA has to be included de jure. If it’s privately funded, the GAA has to be included de facto. Welcome to the 21st century.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Doctor Who

    “You have already said the GAA do not need a stadium.”

    Yes, that’s what makes the GAA’s position so strong. Soccer desperately needs the stadium. That makes their position weak. That’s the reality. When there’s a mouse and an elephant in a room, it’s not the elephant that has a problem. Soccer needs to deal with this reality.

    “You won’t go to the Odyssey or Ormeau because you might see a Prod, you might go to the Maze because you will only see cows and you can pop in to the Hunger Srike memorial museum.”

    I live beside the Ormeau park.

    I remember Armagh’s triumphant All Ireland homecoming at the City Hotel in 2002. 40,000 were on the streets of Armagh city that night. We all filtered from the pubs up around the Shambles and Thomas Street and Irish Street over to the hotel (the adjacent Armagh Rugby Club allowed the crowd to use their pitch – GAA and rugby in Armagh city have a long history of respectful and mutually beneficial co-existence). The route included a walk through the middle of the town, down Scotch Street, and to within sight of Barrack Street, a traditionally unionist area. There, Paul Berry had gathered a rabble of couple of hundred, to “protest” against the celebrations. A few stones were thrown, nothing worth a report in the next day’s paper, not enough to dampen the celebrations. But if a handful of scumbags can cause a scene in a mainly-nationalist town, when faced with 40k GAA fans, then clearly the potential exists for more serious trouble if 40k GAA fans were to descend on a traditionally unionist area like the Ravenhill Road. That potential is enough to scare people away – especially from such family-oriented events such as GAA matches. Can’t you see that this is a reasonable point?

    “Football fans and Rugby fans (the ones who will use the stadium, not the armchair ones) have stated a prefernce for Belfast City Centre, if the GAA don´t want that, fine we will leave them behind.”

    But you can’t leave them behind. Either you deal with them or you stay at Windsor while the roof falls in. You ready to show a little more humility yet?

    “No where else in Ireland until this year have the GAA shared a stadium.”

    Totally irrelevant, but I’ll field it anyway: the issue of the GAA sharing grounds only arose because they had the grounds to share. They had something that the others wanted. They were in a position of strength. What I don’t think you’re grasping here is that any new Belfast stadium won’t be the property of the IFA – the IFA will simply be a tenant, just like the IRFU and the GAA and whomever else. It won’t be any of the IFA’s business who else the stadium managers decide to let the stadium to. It only makes sense to build the stadium in a way that can accommodate anyone – sure, it won’t be perfect for soccer, but let’s not kid ourselves, soccer will have no choice but to go with what ever is provided. Soccer’s position in weak. The GAA’s position is strong, so it will have far more pull in the stadium design. That’s the realpolitik.

    “The Antrim branch of the GAA showed what they thought of inclusiveness when they allowed the pro IRA hunger strike celebration at Casement Park. So one would be forgiven to think that they have no intention of sharing with the other bodies.”

    Totally irrelevant

    “A national stadium for Northern Ireland is much needed and needed soon, as you rightly pointed out earlier, Windsor Park has recently suffered structural damage to the North Stand and now the Railway stand is to close. This is an international venue, and while the rest of the UK have remarkable football stadiums Northern Ireland has not.”

    In Britain, they have the sporting products to fill their stadiums. In NI, if you exclude the GAA we certainly do not. That’s the reality you have to deal with.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    (contd)

    “Billy, you are motivated by sectarianism, you want the GAA to veto any move for a stadium in Belfast just to spoil the party for the rest of us.”

    Let’s see: you’re arguing that the stadium should be built in a way that makes it impossible for my preferred code to use it. I’m arguing that it should be built in a way that allows everyone to use it. And I’m sectarian? (And let me clarify yet again: I’m in favour of a Belfast site – though I would defend those who raise legitimate issues about location, and I don’t think the Maze site is totally unreasonable, though it would be a missed opportunity.)

    I would also ask: is there anyone who isn’t from Belfast who thinks that access to the Maze would be a major problem? (If Clones can handle 35k, Lisburn can handle 40.)

    “Billy Pilgrim points out that “the success of GAA” means that the venture should be where they want.”

    I said nothing of the sort.

    There will be negotiations to be had, and each association will argue for the location that best suits their needs. Nothing wrong with that. Now, I have pointed out the strength of the GAA’s position in all of this, and suggested that some soccer fans should be more realistic about the strength of their own. That means that if the GAA and soccer come to loggerheads over a location, it’s likely that the GAA will win out. Why? Because soccer needs a stadium – anywhere, anyhow, at any cost. The GAA doesn’t. That means the GAA are in the driving seat. Soccer needs to take this on board, and snap out of their fantasy of a GAA-free stadium. It’s a shared stadium (in every sense of the word) or no stadium. Forget about these unhelpful arguments about pitch size and deal with it.

    “He knows the maze will be detrimental to the needs of Ulster Rugby fans and Northern Ireland football fans, but he doesn´t care because that doesn´t affect him.”

    I care about soccer and rugby less than about GAA, it’s true. So? I’m not calling for the exclusion of anyone – you are. I don’t consider the future of soccer and rugby to be my problem, but nor do I wish them ill. (Indeed I love both sports, and I consider sport to be an absolute good anyway.) Can you say the same about GAA?

    I want a shared stadium. Why don’t you?