Lenny Harbinson: British government must stand over its commitment to Casement Park
ANTRIM football manager Lenny Harbinson believes the British government must stand over its commitment to Casement Park and provide the money to cover the expected overspend on the proposed new stadium.
Harbinson feels that the province of Ulster is in need of a ground that can host its showpiece occasions, but says the GAA's overall approach to stadium construction in recent times has lacked “strategic thinking and control”.
GAA Director General, Tom Ryan, yesterday reiterated the association's position in regards the funding of Casement Park's redevelopment, the cost of which has already run £32m over the original £77.5m estimate.
Ryan accepted that there will “be a difficulty over how that gap is bridged” but, having run into a €30m debt with the redevelopment of Páirc Úi Chaoimh, the GAA is not planning to offer anything beyond its original £15m contribution.
That was intended to go along with £62.5m from the NI executive, which had committed £110m in total to the regional stadia project that has seen work completed at both Ravenhill (Kingspan Stadium) and Windsor Park (National Stadium).
There would be an extra £7.5m left in the original pot, but that still leaves a shortfall of £25m.
And while positive sounds about Casement Park emanated from political parties in the days after the executive's restoration, there has yet to be a commitment made that the government will fund the shortfall.
“If Ulster had three or four stadia that were 34,000-seater stadiums, then I could see big problems, and there could be a logical argument in that case to say ‘do we need another stadium?'” said Harbinson.
“Especially when you look at other provinces spending large amounts of money. Ulster doesn't have one single 35,000-seater stadium, nowhere do we have it, so for me there's a special case that we should have one in the province that's fit for purpose.''