Design & Development

NI fans express Euro 2028 ‘legacy’ concerns over Casement Park

Rendering of the rebuilt Casement Park, Belfast

Featured image credit: Populous

Northern Ireland football fans have questioned the rationale behind the costly redevelopment of Gaelic sports’ Casement Park as a host venue for football’s UEFA EURO 2028.

The UK and Ireland were confirmed as the tournament’s joint hosts on Tuesday (Oct 10), with Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales set to stage a major international football tournament for the first time.

Belfast’s Casement Park – the traditional home of the Gaelic Athletic Association’s (GAA) Antrim team – has been selected as Northern Ireland’s sole host venue despite it being closed since 2013.

Plans to construct a new venue at Casement Park have been on the table for more than 10 years, but the project stalled due to financial and planning issues.

While many have welcomed the cross-community appeal of the GAA venue welcoming a football tournament, the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AONISC) has questioned what effect the choice of Casement Park will have on the legacy for football in the country.

Chairman Gary McAllister asked why Windsor Park, the home of Northern Ireland’s national football team, cannot be expanded to meet UEFA’s requirement that venues should have a capacity of at least 30,000.

“I don’t think anyone doesn’t want to see Northern Ireland host a major tournament. It’s something most of us never expected to be possible but we have a number of questions regarding the Irish FA’s participation as hosts,” McAllister told the BBC.

“It remains our view that football tournaments should be hosted by football stadia.”

Spiralling costs

The stadium project finally obtained planning permission in 2021 after a long legal battle between Belfast authorities and local residents. Casement Park is now set to be rebuilt as a 26,000-seat stadium with temporary seating added for Euro 2028 to meet UEFA capacity requirements.

However, there remain concerns over spiralling costs with a project originally estimated to be worth £76m now up to at least £110m.

This has also rankled football fans as it is likely that Casement Park’s redevelopment would require Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government to provide much more cash to the GAA venue than was handed to football for Windsor Park’s redevelopment some years ago.

The GAA community itself has welcomed Northern Ireland’s confirmation as a Euro 2028 host and the utilisation of Casement Park.

Ulster GAA chief executive Brian McAvoy said: “The GAA prides itself in delivering for society and the inclusion of Casement Park in this successful UEFA Euro 2028 bid is recognition of the major role we play in enriching the lives of our communities. It is also testament to the partnership that has developed with the Irish Football Association.    

“Casement Park hosting top level international soccer matches as part of UEFA Euro 2028 will be a compelling symbol of the power that sport has to unite people from every generation and background.

“As has happened with other GAA venues on the island in staging games from other codes, we will play our full part in helping to deliver a truly groundbreaking and inclusive tournament for the benefit of everyone.”