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Euro 2016 fanzone move cost Belfast ratepayers £170,000

Republic of Ireland fans watch their match against France at the Euro 2016 fanzone at Boucher Road playing fields. Picture by Cliff Donaldson 
Brendan Hughes

RELOCATING the Euro 2016 Belfast 'fanzone' cost ratepayers more than £170,000.

The staggering sum was paid to accommodate football supporters at Boucher Road playing fields for just two matches in June.

Around 9,000 fans watched Northern Ireland's Saturday game against Wales on the big screen at the 20,000-capacity venue.

The turnout plunged to around 1,500 for the Republic's knock-out tie with France the next day.

Belfast City Council had stepped in to host the fanzone when it could no longer be held at the Belsonic stage in Titanic Quarter because of scheduled music concerts.

A new venue was found after First Minister Arlene Foster spoke to the council expressing her concern.

The initial fanzone at Belsonic was staged at no cost to the public purse.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, last night hit out at the Boucher bill.

"This is a piece of poor planning on the council's behalf," he said.

"Better foresight in the future would allow the council to bring in the private sector to cover the costs of events like these so that the taxpayer isn't left picking up the bill when problems arise."

Belfast City Council confirmed it spent £170,077.05 on the Boucher fanzone.

A spokeswoman said it was arranged at "exceptionally short notice" following a request by "central government".

She said the expenditure covered areas including stewarding, toilets, transport, marquees and licensing.

However, the council was able to generate £3,500 through hiring trade areas to vendors.

"There was a clear demand for the fanzone but unfortunately Belsonic were not able to accommodate the Last 16 matches," the spokeswoman said.

"The council was asked by central government if we could provide a solution and the Boucher Road venue was arranged at exceptionally short notice.

"The Saturday attendance more than justified the initiative but unfortunately poor weather had a detrimental effect on the Sunday."

Meanwhile, the Department for Communities confirmed it paid more than £74,300 for a homecoming event at the Belsonic venue for the Northern Ireland football team.

More than 9,000 fans attended the event at the 15,000-capacity site.

Young football fans at the Boucher Road fanzone during Northern Ireland's match against Wales in June

Tickets sales and on-site collections generated £10,800 which was presented to the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children, a spokeswoman said.

Last month it was reported that a homecoming event for boxer Carl Frampton at Belfast City Hall cost the council more than £20,000.

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