Category: Archive

Only cooperation can save Ahern’s plan for stadium

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN — It was bound to happen. The year had gone on for too long without the annual bout of Irish "stadiumitis." This time it was Taoiseach Bertie Ahern setting up a committee to look into the feasibility of an 80,000-seat national stadium.

The juicy morsel in the midst of another vague, grand plan was the announcement that businessman and gambler extraordinaire J.P. McManus, was prepared to personally pump $80 million into the project.

All very fine, but at a time when Croke Park is moving full-steam ahead with the redevelopment of its own grounds and when there are already seven proposals for major stadia on the table, why this initiative?

The GAA won’t need any national stadium, the FAI wants to build its own facility even though it may only have five or six big games a year, and the IRFU is as usual dithering about the future of Lansdowne Road.

Instead of letting everyone run with their own ideas — which won’t be viable because there simply isn’t enough high-profile sport in Ireland at the moment — Ahern should be knocking a few heads together and demanding that one stadium be built that will cater to soccer, rugby and, when necessary, track and field as well.

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He should make at least half of the money available from government funds and insist that the FAI and the IRFU hammer out a deal. At the moment, his idea is too vague and not inclusive enough. Ahern’s plan will end in farce if either the FAI or the IRFU go their own way and build for their own purposes.

Apart from Croke Park, Ireland needs just one more major stadium complete with a 50-meter pool. If Ahern’s committee fails to make that crystal clear and if it develops into another talking shop, then Irish sport will once again be the big loser.

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