Northern Ireland

Casement Park redevelopment: List of potential contractors yet to be established

Soccer chiefs reported to be drawing up contingency plans as clock runs down on stadium redevelopment

The Casement Park redevelopment project has stalled

The Stormont department leading the procurement process for the troubled Casement Park project has yet to establish a definitive list of contractors for the redevelopment.

News of the ongoing delays to appoint a new contractor come after it was reported that international soccer chiefs have drawn up contingency plans over concerns that Casement Park will not be ready to host the high-profile Euro 2028 tournament.

The proposed 34,500 capacity Casement Park stadium is included in the joint Ireland/Britain bid to host Euro 2028 and concerns have previously been raised over whether its redevelopment will be completed in time.

The stadium, which is in the heart of west Belfast, is currently derelict and it has been suggested that construction work must begin this autumn if it is to be ready for the tournament.

In November last year the Department for Communities (DfC) confirmed it was taking the lead in the hunt for a new contractor after Co Derry-based construction firm Heron Brothers was forced to withdraw from the multi-million pound project “due to technical restrictions within the Public Contract Regulations”.

At the time DfC officials said a streamlined process would be pursued using “existing procurement frameworks for major construction projects with pre-qualified contractors”.

However, no details about the “pre-qualified contractors” have been made public and when pressed this week a spokeswoman for DfC confirmed that “while the Department is exploring the use of national frameworks to deliver the Casement Park project, a definitive list of contractors has not yet been established”.

“In any event, in line with normal procurement procedures aimed at maximising competition and ensuring value for money the identity of contractors that may ultimately be invited to tender will not be published.

“Where a contract is awarded, the name of the winning tenderer will be published.”

Last week it was suggested that European football body, UEFA is considering other venues if the planned Casement Park redevelopment does not take place.

The Times reported that UEFA would split the competition matches earmarked for Belfast across nine other venues across Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.

It was also reported that Belfast may also host pre-tournament friendlies, provide training facilities and possibly be the venue for the tournament draw.

The Casement Park stadium is currently derelict (Niall Carson/PA)
Casement Park stadium is currently derelict

In 2013 Herron Brother and English construction firm Buckingham Group, were appointed to redevelop the landmark GAA ground.

However, the project received a setback last August when Buckingham Group gave notice of its intention to appoint administrators.

It later went into administration owing more than £108m.

The GAA, DfC and Stormont’s Central Procurement Directorate, which is part of the Department of Finance (DoF), then launched an exercise to “assess the potential implications” on the project.

Initially budgeted at £77 million, it is now estimated the delayed building project will cost around £160m to complete, with the GAA set to pick up just £15m of the total.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said that the cash will be found to build the stadium.

Plans to include Casement Park as a venue for Euro 2028 have been met with opposition by some unionist and soccer fans in the north.

The DUPs Gordon Lyons was appointed as the new DfC minister at the weekend.