Northern Ireland fans' body vows to push for 'further disclosure' around how IFA arrived at Casement decision

A computer generated image of how the rebuilt Casement Park will look. Ulster GAAA computer generated image of how the rebuilt Casement Park will look. Ulster GAA
A computer generated image of how the rebuilt Casement Park will look. Ulster GAA
Northern Ireland football fans will push for “further disclosure” after the IFA failed to adequately explain why a GAA ground has its full backing as a Euro 2028 host stadium.

That is the view of the Amalgamation of Official NI Supporters Clubs (AONISC) following an exchange of letters between the IFA and the fans’ body, AONISC chair Gary McAllister has said.

Writing to Mr McAllister, Patrick Nelson of the IFA said the alternative to backing Casement Park was “not to have any ambition for Northern Ireland football and decline to be part of the bid”.

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However, the AONISC and others have questioned how pumping millions of pounds of additional public money into the over-budget GAA stadium rebuild – with no similar investment in football infrastructure – will provide a lasting benefit for Northern Ireland football.

Uefa has approved the ten-stadium UK and Ireland bid – including the currently derelict Casement Park – as the host nations for the prestigious tournament.It is not yet clear if Northern Ireland will qualify for the finals, or fail to qualify but gain entry through ‘host country’ entitlement.

In his latest letter to Mr McAllister, Mr Nelson urged the AONISC to get behind the Casement project.

He said: "Given that people here are still on a journey after a difficult past, it would be a shame if we missed the opportunity for better engagement between communities."This is a pivotal moment for football and society in this country. The Irish FA and the Amalgamation can be crucial in playing a positive role in this."

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On Friday, Mr McAllister said: "We'll continue to communicate with the IFA in relation to the issues raised in our recent correspondence.

“We feel there's a need for further disclosure of information around the site selection, funding issues and the delivery of a tangible legacy for local football. The response didn't adequately address the issues.

“If funding is to be delivered on the basis of support for a football tournament, then football infrastructure must benefit.”

Mr McAllister added: “We're waiting some years on a National Training Centre training, we'd like to see local domestic clubs receive funding to allow them to modernise their stadiums. The North Stand at the National Stadium, Windsor Park is almost forty years old and will require modernisation.

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“We believe that each of the three sports should receive their fair share of funding, however with the lengthy delay since the original funding commitment, it's important that football is not left as a 'poor relation' because of the delay.

“All of these things would benefit football in Northern Ireland, so the question we're asking is: if government is to put a substantial amount of money into Casement Park, where is the money for football to allow us also to fulfil our needs – the development of coaches, young players, raising the standards of local football?”

On Thursday, NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said he is confident that attitudes will change before the tournament gets underway.

“I am actually quite convinced that football fans in Northern Ireland will get behind Casement Park,” he told BBC News NI.

“I'm pretty sure that when it's built it will sell out in the Euros and beyond.”