Northern Ireland

Euro 2016: Boucher playing fields is new Belfast fanzone

A view of the Belfast fanzone from the police helicopter during the Northern Ireland v Germany match on Tuesday Image copyright PSNI
Image caption A view of the Belfast fanzone from the police helicopter during the Northern Ireland v Germany match on Tuesday

A new Belfast fanzone has been organised following the unavailability of the area beside Titanic Belfast because of a concert at the venue.

The Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland Euro 2016 games will now be shown at Boucher Road playing fields.

The Titanic Belfast site previously hosted thousands of Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fans for group stage games.

However, the venue is hosting Belsonic concerts this weekend.

That is when both teams play knock-out stage games.

Northern Ireland will play Wales on Saturday, with the Republic of Ireland playing France on Sunday.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Brian Kingston, said Boucher Road playing fields was a "great site, accessible to all parts of the city, and beyond".

"By locating the fan zone here, the council is ensuring as many fans as possible get the chance to continue to demonstrate their phenomenal support for both teams as they enter this crucial knock-out stage."

SDLP Councillor for South Belfast, Donal Lyons, tweeted the announcement this afternoon.

Belfast City Council said details about gate opening times and entry terms for the fanzone would be published on its website on Friday.

Image copyright Donal Lyons
Image caption The fanzone has been moved to the Boucher road playing fields

'Alternative venues'

Earlier, writing on her Twitter account, First Minister Arlene Foster said she had spoken to Belfast City Council about the issue on Wednesday.

In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland, Mrs Foster said: "I'd actually made a phone call about that yesterday because I was concerned when people were tweeting 'well hold on a second, what's going to happen at the weekend because we have these big matches coming up and Belsonic is on and it's a huge event for Belfast as well?'

"I understand that Belfast City Council are looking at alternative venues for Saturday, they're talking about the SSE arena and places like that", the first minister said.

"I understand that the organisers of Belsonic are working with Belfast City Council to try and facilitate them on Sunday as well, so we'll find a solution.

"We have to find a solution because it's important that the fans here in Northern Ireland have somewhere to go so that they can enjoy the experience."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Northern Ireland fans celebrated Gareth McAuley's goal at the Belfast fanzone iduring the game against Ukraine

The fanzone has been organised and run by Belsonic's promoters Shine Productions, who met about the issue.

Earlier, a spokesman for Shine Productions said the concerts would continue as scheduled, but they were looking at what might be logistically possible in terms of the fanzone over the weekend.

In a statement, the firm said: "We are delighted at the success of the event - and we are looking at all the options available to us.

"The Belsonic shows will be going ahead a planned."

Earlier, the Belfast Telegraph said the SSE Arena was being mooted as an alternative venue for the football fans.

In a statement to BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show, the Irish Football Association (IFA) said it "supports Belsonic in its attempts in trying to get an alternative venue".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The party begins after Republic of Ireland beat Italy 1-0

However, the IFA also said Windsor Park football stadium was "not a viable option due to the time it would take to sort out logistics".

Speaking on the same programme, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he intended to discuss the issue with the first minister.

"I will certainly have that conversation," Mr McGuinness said.

"Between the two of us, we will see what we can do."

The deputy first minister said there were also difficulties with securing a fanzone venue in his own constituency, Foyle.

"I will give my commitment to you anyway that we will do our level best to look at different options that are out there and we obviously will have to talk to the IFA and of course the local councils - the Belfast council and the new Derry and Strabane council - to see if we can come up with solutions," he said.

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