Funding shortfall ‘blockage’ for redevelopment of Casement as Euros venue: Lyons

A funding shortfall remains around transforming Casement Park in Belfast into a venue for the Euro 2028 football tournament.

Stormont Communities Minister Gordon Lyons said he is seeking clarity from funders, including the UK Government for the stadium.

Demolition work remains ongoing at the site of the derelict GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) ground in west Belfast, with old floodlights removed this week.

There has been uncertainty around funding for the project following reports that suggested it could cost £308 million.

Stormont Assembly
Communities Minister Gordon Lyons (PA)

Last month, the Irish Government offered £40 million towards it, and the GAA has said it will contribute £15 million.

The UK Government reportedly has reservations around plugging the remaining funding gap.

Mr Lyons was questioned about progress when he appeared before a meeting of his department’s Assembly scrutiny committee on Thursday.

Committee chair Colm Gildernew described hosting Euros matches as a “massive opportunity”.

“This tournament has been in Berlin, Paris, all of these places and it is now the turn of Belfast to get its share of that, and for the island of Ireland,” he said.

“A huge economic benefit, huge sporting benefits to flow from it.”

He asked Mr Lyons to assure the committee that the “parts of the jigsaw will be secured” to ensure the tournament comes to Belfast.

“There is some difficulty in terms of getting clarity in terms of the final funding allocation, and where the money will be coming from,” he told MLAs.

“There is an Executive commitment, and that commitment remains, £62.5 million for the redevelopment of Casement Park, £15 million from the GAA and a contribution of 50 million euro from the Irish Government.

“I’m not going to go too much into figures, potential costs, other than to say that we have moved from the redevelopment of Casement Park to talking about a Euros-enabled football stadium ready for that competition. That has brought additional costs.

“There is a funding shortfall. I am seeking clarity on that to see where that is right now, who are the other funding partners, what can be contributed and then what are we short.

“I am still trying to get that clarity and to get that information – and when I have that, we can then take the next steps.”

Mr Lyons said he recognised the commitment from the Executive is “not sufficient to do what needs to be done for the Euros”, and said they “await clarity from other funding partners”.

Alliance MLA Sian Mulholland asked where the tendering process is at.

Mr Lyons said they cannot be further on tendering at this stage without clarity on funding.

Ms Mulholland said there is a “92-week build that has to be built 52 weeks before the tournament”, describing “just weeks” before the “viability” of the Euros coming to Northern Ireland is in jeopardy, and asked where the blockage is.

“I have asked the UK Government for clarity on that. I believe that discussions are ongoing, but I haven’t had any response to that yet.”

Speaking in the committee after the minister’s evidence, SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan called for Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris to be pressed.

He said that before the restoration of devolved government at the end of January, Mr Heaton-Harris had indicated the UK “would not allow this project to falter”.

“There needs to be conversations with the Secretary of State about the British government’s stake in this project, because it is vital for this place and there’s huge damage that could be done to the reputation of this place if this is not delivered,” he said.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Northern Ireland Department for Communities is responsible for the procurement process for the redevelopment of Casement Park, including direct engagement with local partners on their funding contribution.

“The UK Government will continue to work closely with the Department for Communities regarding the cost of the Casement Park.

“We remain committed to ensuring Euro 2028 leaves a lasting legacy across the UK.”

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