Leading article

Belfast City Council must be able to justify massive fanzone cost

There is no doubt the fanzones organised at Belfast's Titanic Quarter during Euro 2016 were a great success, allowing Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland supporters to capture some of the buzz of the big matches in a safe and well-organised environment.

Even better, this facility was provided at no cost to the public purse by Belsonic, which was due to stage a major music event at the venue in June.

However, when the two teams progressed to the last 16 stage, this presented a difficulty.

Northern Ireland was due to play Wales on Saturday June 25 while the Republic was due to play France the following day but these matches clashed with the planned concerts at the Belsonic stage in the Titanic Quarter.

Belfast City Council was under pressure to come up with an alternative venue which would allow fans to watch both matches.

Within a relatively short time it was announced that the fanzone would be relocated to Boucher Road playing fields in Belfast.

At the time this seemed an ideal solution and this proposal was widely welcomed.

But what the public did not know was the likely cost of setting up a fanzone at the site.

Given that Belfast City Council own this venue, many people may have believed the implications for the ratepayer may have been fairly modest.

It now transpires that relocating the fanzone for these two matches cost an astonishing £170,000. The council has explained that expenditure covered stewarding, toilets, transport, marquees and licensing.

Around 9,000 fans watched Northern Ireland's game on the Saturday but only 1,500 turned up the following day for the Republic's match, with bad weather blamed for the low attendance.

There are clear issues here for Belfast City Council in terms of the expense of this event while questions will be asked about contingency planning for the Euros and what other options were available.

Ultimately, the council has to be able to justify this massive cost to the public purse.

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: