Reduced capacity for Casement Park new venue


Belfast's Casement Park with reduced capacity Image: Populous and GAA

The new stadium to be built at the Casement Park in West Belfast (UK) will have a smaller initial capacity than originally planned.

‘BBC’ stated that there will be room for 30,000 spectators when it first opens, rather than 34,500.

However, the plan is to increase the capacity after the EURO 2028 soccer tournament.

The 2028 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Football Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA EURO 2028 or simply EURO 2028, will be the 18th UEFA European Championship, the quadrennial international football championship. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Republic of Ireland will host the tournament, which is scheduled to take place between June and July 2028.

Nyon (Switzerland)-based the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is one of six continental bodies of governance in association football. It governs football, futsal and beach football in Europe and the transcontinental countries of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Kazakhstan, as well as the Asian country Israel. The UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Since 2022, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the FIFA and UEFA suspended all Russian national teams and clubs from any FIFA and UEFA competitions.

‘BBC’ further stated that questions remain about whether the stadium will be built in time for the event.

An official estimate puts the cost of the redevelopment project at about £308m and the funding currently is not available.

Nonetheless, preparations for the stadium reconstruction continue and there has been a rethink in terms of the initial configuration of the seating.

Rather than build a 34,500-capacity stadium with 26,000 seats and 8,500 standing, the plan is to initially make it all-seater.

The organizers of EURO 2028, UEFA, require all-seater stadiums.

The Casement Park is one of 10 venues in the United Kingdom and Ireland chosen to host matches in the tournament.

The 31,500-capacity Casement Park is the principal Gaelic games stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland (UK), that served as the home ground of the Antrim hurling and Gaelic football teams. It is located in Andersonstown Road in the West of the City, and is named after the Irish revolutionary Roger Casement.

The redevelopment project is being overseen by the Department for Communities.

A spokesperson said, “Work is ongoing with all partners to initially deliver the stadium to meet the UEFA specifications. A stadium configuration of 30,000 seats will be provided for the EURO tournament, which will be returned to the Gaelic games configuration after the tournament, to provide 26,000 seats plus an 8,500 capacity standing terrace.”

It had been thought it would happen the other way, with the larger capacity first, and then the reduction before the EUROS.

Given the fact that the building of the stadium has not yet begun, it may have been decided there is insufficient time to carry out the capacity reduction before the soccer tournament.

When planning permission for the stadium was granted in 2022 the capacity quoted was 34,578.

The reduced capacity at the EUROS will ease traffic and parking issues around the West Belfast venue.

The stadium will primarily be for the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) games but the design will allow it to host other sports, including soccer and rugby.

Dublin (Ireland)-based the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is an Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organization, focused primarily on promoting indigenous Gaelic games and pastimes, which include the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, Gaelic handball, and rounders.

If built, it will be the only stadium in Belfast with more than 20,000 seats.

If funding issues scupper the redevelopment, the City will miss out on the EUROS as no other stadium could host matches in the tournament.

The UEFA wants the stadium ready by mid-2027 at the latest, so that there is time to carry out test events at the venue before the tournament.

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