The owner of Northern Ireland’s Glentoran FC has announced plans for a 34,000-capacity stadium despite the Belfast club having an average attendance of less than 3,000.
Ali Pour, an Iranian-born businessman, said the proposed stadium could be considered as a venue for the UK and Ireland’s bid for the 2028 UEFA European Championships as well as a host for other major European finals, rugby fixtures and the Commonwealth Games.
Speaking to the Sunday Life newspaper, Pour said a stadium built in East Belfast’s Harbour area could be considered as an alternative to Casement Park, the arena that is home to Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) team Antrim, for the UK and Ireland 2028 bid.
“All I’m saying is there is another option. We still have a chance to build a stadium in Belfast,” he told the Sunday Life.
“Casement is the favoured venue but I have seen plans change at the last minute. It is something we looked at before and we still can look at this.
“There is no reason why Casement couldn’t go in and then maybe later on a better option turns up. UEFA may look at that.”
Many fans and others have poured scorned on the plans, with questions over finance and the necessity for such a large stadium considering Glentoran’s average attendance this season is just 2,850. Glentoran’s Oval home ground, which dates back to the 1890s, has a capacity of 26,556, with a ‘safe’ capacity of 6,050.
However, Jim Rodgers, a former Glentoran director and Lord Mayor of Belfast, gave his support to the project.
“I have always been advocating that site at Titanic,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “It would be brilliant for a stadium, it would be great for all sports, including rugby, gaelic, hockey, you name it.
“It is near the George Best City Airport, it is near the ferry terminals, it is near the railway station, as well as good transport links with the buses. So, it is an ideal location, and I would be backing it 100%.”
Last year, planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of Belfast’s Casement Park to create a new 34,578-seat Gaelic sports stadium. A legal challenge against the project, brought by local residents, was rejected earlier this year.