Ulster GAA ‘remains fully committed’ to efforts to host Euros at Casement

Ulster GAA has said it remains fully committed to efforts to host Euro 2028 matches at Casement Park but has revealed a funding decision from the UK Government has been further delayed until after the General Election.

The statement from the organisation came after GAA president Jarlath Burns expressed pessimism over the prospect of the gaelic games venue in west Belfast staging games in the showpiece soccer tournament in four years’ time.

In its statement to the PA news agency, Ulster GAA also stressed the need for Stormont’s Department for Communities to progress the tendering process for the construction work to ensure Uefa timelines are complied with.

It further called on the Stormont Executive to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the situation.

The derelict west Belfast ground has been earmarked as a venue for five Euro 2028 matches.

GAA president Jarlath Burns
GAA president Jarlath Burns (Niall Carson/PA)

However, the funding required to build the stadium in time for the tournament is still not in place and there are concerns the ongoing delays will see Belfast missing out on a tournament being jointly hosted by the UK and Ireland.

Ulster GAA and the Irish FA recently wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asking the Government to bridge the current funding gap.

On a recent visit to Belfast, Mr Sunak insisted the Government will make a “substantial contribution” to the redevelopment – but refused to say how much or if it will happen in time for Euro 2028.

There have been reports that the projected costs of the rebuild could soar as high as £308 million in a worst-case scenario.

In 2011, the Stormont executive committed £62.5 million to the project.

Earlier this year, the Irish Government offered £40 million towards it, and the GAA has said it will contribute £15 million.

On Tuesday, Mr Burns reportedly told the launch event of the All-Ireland hurling championships in Co Clare of his belief that it was unlikely that Euro 2028 games would be played at Casement.

“It’s not looking as if we’re going to get the Euros,” he said.

Two workmen in hi-vis walking through Casement Park GAA stadium in Belfast
Workmen at Casement Park GAA stadium in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ulster GAA referenced his comments in a statement that also confirmed the latest funding delay.

“As the world waits for Euro 2024 to kick off this weekend in Germany, the time is quickly approaching for the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to decide if they want to host the third-largest sporting event in the world, in Belfast, in four years’ time,” it said.

“The recent comments of Uachtaran CLG (GAA president), Jarlath Burns, reflects the frustration and dismay regarding the delay in the development of Casement Park relating to both the procurement of a main contractor and the project’s funding package.

“Following our joint letter with the Irish FA to the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak we have had confirmation that details of government funding will not be made available until after the UK Parliament elections on July 4.

“To keep this global and transformational opportunity alive, we are now urgently calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to collectively discuss the opportunities that Euro 2028 will create for our society and the reputational, economic and sporting risk of losing this global event.

“We are also calling for the procurement tender documents to be released without further delay to ensure the project development remains within UEFA timelines.

“Working in partnership with the Irish FA we remain fully committed to doing everything we can in the coming weeks to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can be delivered for all of society.

“Casement Park will be built, and we will continue to work with all partners who provided commitments within the Regional Stadia Programme and successive Programme for Governments to ensure that the strategic stadia needs of the Gaels of Ulster will be delivered.”

Stormont’s Communities Minister Gordon Lyons has repeatedly said he is awaiting further clarity on funding for the stadium.