Super Cup dream 10 years in the making for Irish FA

The Irish FA’s dream of hosting the 2021 UEFA Super Cup has been ten years in the making.

By Steven Crawford
Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 7:25 pm

The journey to stage one of European football’s showpiece finals at Windsor Park began back in 2011 when the Irish FA, government partners, Linfield FC and Northern Ireland Football League agreed to redevelop the stadium.

The two-year £38m project began in 2014 and delivered a compact world class stadium with an 18,500 capacity.

The UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship, numerous international matches and cup finals plus a high profile Carl Frampton boxing bout have all been successfully delivered by the IFA at the venue since.

The UEFA Super Cup final will take place at the National Stadium tonight

The cancellation of last year’s UEFA Men’s Under-19 Championship, which was due to be hosted by the association, paved the way for Peter Gilpin to take on the role of Project Leader for the 2021 UEFA Super Cup.

Peter switched his focus to Super Cup in October last year after the Men’s U19 tournament had been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Irish FA’s bid to host the meeting of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League winners was prepared and submitted by the late Craig Stanfield, and Peter is quick to praise his predecessor in the role.

“Craig was meticulous with his preparations and had developed relationships with key people inside and outside UEFA prior to his untimely death at the start of last year,” he said.

“Craig kick-started the project when he hosted a site visit for UEFA in November 2019 which covered stadium operations, city operations and fan mobility among other things.”

A team of dedicated Irish FA staff have been helping to bring the project together.

They also had to deal with the challenges Covid threw up which led to meetings with UEFA being held via Microsoft Teams.

UEFA have had people on the ground in Belfast since March to help deliver the match and in recent days more than 100 UEFA staff have arrived to fine-tune everything. The personnel involved are used to putting on big matches around Europe.

“A lot of hard work has gone into this project and we have had to deal with a lot of unknowns, such as the number of fans that would be allowed in,” said Peter.

“We have worked closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to enable people to get to the game and it’s great that we can welcome 13,000 fans to watch Chelsea and Villarreal in action.

“The priority now is getting everyone into the ground safely and home safely.

“It has been one big team effort in association with UEFA.

“It’s a very special feeling to be able to put on such a big game and I have no doubt it will be a memorable occasion.”

It’s not only been a big year for Peter professionally but also personally as in mid-July he and his wife Lauren welcomed their second child into the world, a wee girl called Betsy, a sister for Penny.

“I could not do this role without support from home. My wife has been great and so have my parents and in-laws,” he added.

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