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Belfast council rejected Belsonic offer on Euro 2016 fanzone

Northern Ireland fans at the Belfast fanzone staged at Belsonic. Picture by Hugh Russell
Brendan Hughes

BELFAST City Council had rejected an offer to retain the original Euro 2016 'fanzone' location before spending £170,000 on a new venue.

Details of the offer emerged after The Irish News yesterday revealed the huge cost of relocating the football fanzone.

However, the council has insisted the late proposal was only made after it was "contractually committed" to a new venue.

The initial fanzone had been staged at the Belsonic music venue beside Titanic Belfast at no cost to the public purse.

However Belfast council stepped in when the European football championship's knock-out stages clashed with scheduled Belsonic concerts.

The fanzone, which showed matches on the big screen, was moved to the 20,000-capacity Boucher Road playing fields for just two games after First Minister Arlene Foster spoke to the council expressing concern.

Around 9,000 fans watched Northern Ireland against Wales, but turnout fell to 1,500 for the Republic's tie with France the following day.

However, it has emerged Belsonic had made a late offer to the council that it could retain its fanzone at Titanic Belfast if licensing allowed its concerts to continue an hour later until midnight.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman last night said: "Belfast City Council was approached by senior figures in government about putting on a fanzone after it became apparent Belsonic was unable to host the Last 16 matches.

"In a very short period of time, thanks to the tremendous efforts of council staff, a venue was secured, contracts were agreed and PR for the two days was launched.

"It was after these arrangements were in place and the Boucher Road venue was announced that Belsonic indicated that they could alter schedules to host the fanzone.

"Clearly, the preferable option was for the fanzone to continue to be hosted by Belsonic.

"However, by the time Belsonic contacted us to say they could alter schedules to host the fanzone it was too late to revert back to this venue as the council was contractually committed to delivering the event at Boucher Road."

In total the council spent £170,077.05 on the Boucher fanzone, but was able to generate £3,500 through hiring trade areas to vendors.

The council last night said it was "in discussion with the NI executive in relation to their contribution" to the cost.

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive John O'Connell hit out at the spending, branding it "poor planning on the council's behalf".

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

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

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

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