Northern Ireland

Casement Park refurbishment to start in 2024, IFA boss reveals

A computer-generated image of how a re-developed Casement Park could look
A computer-generated image of how a re-developed Casement Park could look A computer-generated image of how a re-developed Casement Park could look

Irish FA president Conrad Kirkwood has revealed extensive refurbishment work on Casement Park will start in 2024 and be completed by 2026 — two years before it is set to host Euro 2028 fixtures.

Mr Kirkwood insists the UK Government have given him and the Irish FA assurances over the timeframe.

Rebuilding the new-look 34,500-seater stadium — which has lay dormant since 2013 — is estimated to cost £130million, with most of the funding expected to come from London.

If the joint bid between England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales is successful, the west Belfast stadium is likely to host four Euro 2028 games, including Northern Ireland’s group fixtures – should Michael O’Neill’s team qualify for the tournament.

Mr Kirkwood told the Belfast Telegraph: “Our government partners assure us Casement Park will start in 2024 and finish within two years.

“It’s important that we have a stadium in Northern Ireland that matches those in other countries. Northern Ireland’s inclusion in Euro 2028 is a fundamental part of the bid, as it is a five-nation bid and all five nations must be involved.”

While the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs rejected the idea of Euro 2028 games being staged at Casement Park, saying they should only be played in football stadia, the Irish FA president insists securing the rights to host tournament games in Belfast would be a huge boost.

He said: “This is the biggest football competition in Europe, and there is a very real possibility that some games will be played in Belfast, and a possibility of Northern Ireland playing in those games.

“It’s not just about football either. This is an event that will generate income and jobs for the Northern Ireland economy at a time when money is tight.

If the five-nation bid is successful, games will also be staged at Wembley, the National Stadium of Wales, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the City of Manchester Stadium, Everton Stadium, St James’ Park, Villa Park, Hampden Park and the Aviva Stadium.

The joint UK and Ireland bid will face competition from Turkey.