Fixtures headache for officials as Kop stand damage at Windsor looks terminal

Safety fears over West Stand after cracks spotted
Safety fears over West Stand after cracks spotted

It is now almost certain that Linfield will have to play its remaining home games away from Windsor Park as damage to the ground’s West Stand looks increasingly terminal.

Cracks in the 18-year-old grandstand were first noticed on Tuesday and the latest photographs show collapsed brickwork and buckled stantions supporting the rear of the structure.

Around 5,000 boisterous Northern Ireland fans had packed into the stand on Sunday to watch the national team defeat Finland in a Euro 2016 qualifier.

Windsor Park was already at half capacity due to major renovations and the closure of the West Stand - also known as the Kop - has thrown a crunch Euro tie against Romania on March 13 into doubt.

The Kingspan at Ravenhill is one of the possible alternative venues to stage the international fixture - and could also host the Irish Cup final between Glentoran and Portadown on May 2.

Fears have been expressed that the stand will have to be demolished.

The Linfield board met on Thursday night to discuss the crisis but it is thought they will not have access to a structural engineer’s report on the damage until after Easter. Linfield’s top of the table clash with Crusaders, due to take place on Saturday, has been postponed.

The club’s vice-chairman Billy Kennedy said: “The damage sustained at the Kop stand has created unprecedented problems for the club in fulfilling our remaining two home fixtures,”

A major building programme on the south Belfast site has involved excavations directly behind the West Stand but it is not yet known if that construction activity is linked to the possible subsidence.

Gary McAllister of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs said it would be unfortunate if the national team lost home advantage while enjoying its best ever start to a major tournament qualifying campaign.