Northern Ireland

Windsor Park: West Stand to be demolished

A comparison of the cracks in the damaged West Stand at Windsor Park
Image caption Cracks in the damaged West Stand were shown to be worsening earlier this month

The damaged West Stand at Windsor Park is to be demolished, the chief executive of the Irish Football Association (IFA) has said.

Cracks were discovered last month, following Northern Ireland's game against Finland when 4,000 spectators filled the stand.

Patrick Nelson said the crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania will go ahead at Windsor Park on 13 June.

He was addressing Stormont's Culture, Arts and Leisure committee.

He said all of the 10,000 capacity for the game would be met for the game by accelerating work on the East Stand, South East Quadrant, and South Stand.

Mr Nelson said the IFA board had met on Monday to ratify the decision to demolish the stand, following a structural engineer's report that was received last week.

"The view is that demolition work needs to start in order to make the stand safe," he said.

He said investigations would continue into what caused the damage.

The Irish Cup Final between Glentoran and Portadown on 2 May had previously been moved to the Oval in east Belfast.

Mr Nelson said: "We analysed a number of grounds within our sport and decided the Oval was the best possibility, notwithstanding the fact that it's the home ground of one of the finalists.

"As Linfield supporters will know, that has occasionally happened in the past for the blue team.

'Meetings'

"We are still working with Belfast City Council, the clubs and the ground as well to try to get as many people safely into the Oval as we can on cup final day."

In a statement, Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said: "I attended the meetings on Friday and was impressed by the attention to detail in the plan put forward by the project team.

"I now look forward to the Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania in June being played at the national football stadium at Windsor Park."

Martin Lennon of Newry based construction firm O'Hare & McGovern, who won the contract to redevelop Windsor Park, said they were committed to carrying out the instructions of the IFA.

He added that a number of engineers' reports were currently being considered.

"We have plans in place to ensure the controlled demolition will take place in a safe manner, to ensure the individuals carrying out that work are safe and at this stage our focus is on achieving our 13 June deadline for the international," he said.

Gary McAllister of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs said he believed fans would be assured by the IFA's statement regarding the stadium and plans for the home fixture against Romania.

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