Ali Shams Pour outlines cost of Oval redevelopment as he welcomes investment

Photo shows Glentoran's Oval stadium and (inset) Ali Shams Pour
-Credit: (Image: Inpho)

Ali Shams Pour insists Glentoran are "ready to start digging" as they await crucial funding support The East Belfast club is set to benefit from some of the long-overdue Stormont cash to improve facilities here.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons announced on Wednesday an initial £36.2m package for football in Northern Ireland. All clubs will have to apply for the funding, which will also stretch to grassroots football and help progress a new national training centre.

Glentoran is one of several clubs in desperate need of financial support to pump into its own stadium. The club says it has plans already at an "advanced stage".

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The East Belfast side revealed blueprints back in 2021. Proposals include a two new all-seater stands totalling 4,000 capacity and the reconfiguration of existing standing terracing at both goal ends providing 2,000 person capacity.

The £36.2m figure is the same amount that was pledged back in 2011, but was continually delayed due to inaction and the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont. It is estimated that it would take £200m to address the total need for football here, including £120m for senior clubs in the NI Football League.

Pour told Belfast Live: "I welcome Wednesday's announcement. It is something that has been talked about for years. But the past six to eight months we started seeing good signs from talking to different people. And when Stormont came back then this came back on the table.

"We were sort of expecting an announcement. It is great news, and it is good news that more money seems to be coming, because £36.2m today isn't what it was 13 years ago. It won't do much to help all these football clubs. But it is good news and we look forward to hearing more."

Asked how much it will cost to redevelop the Oval, Pour added: "It depends to what extent we redevelop the Oval. I could spend £100m easily, but to replicate what we have with a more modern look is around £20m. Whether we get that remains to be seen.

"There are plans for two new all-seater stands, that's what we are looking at right now. And there are time issues, too. We will have to use one stand while the other one is built, and vice versa.

"We would rather keep the Oval for as long as we can. But we have put a lot of work into these plans. We spent £100,000 on architects, consultants, planners etc. Government needs to know the money is being spent correctly, as this is taxpayers' money."

With the application process set to get under way this financial year, Pour says Glentoran are ready to "start digging" once the club receives funding.

"We have to make sure every single penny is accounted for and spent properly. So we have been working on this for months and making sure we are ready to receive this money. And I want this to be the flagship of the Northern Ireland Football Fund, and I hope it will be," he said.

"We are in a good position to advance these plans. We are good to go. As soon as they release the funds we will be ready to start digging straight away."

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