The Oval (Belfast)
|Capacity||26,556 (5,056 safe capacity)|
The Oval is a football stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which has been home to Glentoran F.C. since 1903 (when they moved from the original Oval). The Oval was bombed during the Belfast blitz of World War II, and was out of use until 1949. It has received few major alterations since 2000 (when a new stand was built), and requires consistent maintenance to fulfill health and safety requirements. The Oval has occasionally hosted the final of the Irish Cup.
From 1882 to 1886, Glentoran used Ormeau Park as their home ground. They moved to Westbourne in Ballymacarrett for six years until 1892, then moving to the first Oval in Dee Street (between Mersey and Chelsea Streets). A new Oval was built in 1903, and the pitch was rotated by ninety degrees. During the early 20th century, the land on which The Oval stood was given in perpetuity to Glentoran by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Daniel Dixon.
In 1941 the Oval was bombed, destroying both grandstands and cratering the pitch. As a result, the ground was flooded repeatedly by the Connswater River; the stirrup pumps were insufficient to drain the pitch. Grosvenor Park was used as a temporary home for Glentoran (while The Oval was rebuilt with the help of fellow Belfast clubs Cliftonville and Distillery) until August 1949. In 1953 the current stands were built, and in 2000 The Oval had a new 1,600-person-capacity stand constructed. It was funded by part of the £2,000,000 investment in Northern Irish sports announced by the Northern Ireland sports minister Michael McGimpsey.
In 2005, after a match between Glentoran and rival team Linfield, Linfield fans broke down a gate in The Oval to access the pitch and throw objects at Glentoran fans in the main stand. Three people were charged with rioting. In July 2011, a bomb found outside The Oval was defused by an army bomb disposal unit. In October 2011 during an Irish Cup match between Glentoran and Portadown, a Portadown fan threw fireworks onto the pitch (injuring Glentoran's assistant manager Pete Batey and goalkeeping coach Davy McClelland).
In 2008, The Oval was the site of a protest by the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster against a decision by the Irish Football Association to allow football matches to be played on Sundays (a first in Northern Ireland). The protesters were concerned that regular Sunday matches would draw congregations away from church. The protest was led by Reverend David McIlveen, who said "Fundamentally, it is a desecration of God's day." In October 2010 the British National Party (BNP), who were trying to gain electoral support, held a rally outside The Oval. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MLA, Robin Newton described the BNP's presence outside The Oval as "nauseous". In 2010, Matty Burrows' goal scored for Glentoran against Portadown at The Oval was nominated for a FIFA Puskás Award.
In 2012, after considering selling naming rights to The Oval, Glentoran unveiled plans to move the club to a new stadium in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast. Although the majority of local fans wish to move to the Hollywood Road area where there is rumors of a major sports facility being built. The Oval was sold to developers in March 2003 for £4 million. since then, there has been little discussion on what will happen to The Oval when Glentoran move out. it has been suggested by Glentoran's chairman that the Oval might be redeveloped into social housing.
In September 1995, Glentoran had an advertising board with "JESUS" in white letters on a black background erected at The Oval. This became known as the "Jesus sign", and was intended to remain for two years. However, it remained at the ground until 2010; Glentoran officials removed it, saying that they needed the space to sell advertising because of the club's financial troubles and because the sign had garnered no income for Glentoran for several years.
Location and design
The Oval is located near the Port of Belfast, and Harland and Wolff's Samson and Goliath cranes are visible from inside the stadium. It is considered by some football fans to be a historic ground because of its concrete terraces and steel fencing. This limits its capacity in UEFA-sanctioned matches to the 3,000 seats in the two main stands (terracing is not permitted in UEFA matches).
The stadium holds 26,556, but is currently restricted to 5,056 under safety legislation. The main stand holds 2,720 and the Railway stand holds 2,070, and the Oval has accommodated 55,000 attendees for a European Cup match against Rangers. Since 2011, the safe capacity permitted by Health and Safety authorities is 5,300; before 2011 the stadium could hold up to 8,000. Linfield's manager David Jeffrey criticised these restrictions and said that they were "murdering local football."
In the 21st century, the Oval has been dilapidated and requires constant repairs to fulfill Heath and Safety requirements for Glentoran to host its home matches there. In 2009, Glentoran's Irish Cup match against Limavady United was abandoned after the stadium's floodlight pylons started shaking in the high winds and the referee deemed it too dangerous for the match to continue.
In previous years, the Oval was used to host the final of the Irish Cup. During the 1985 Irish Cup final, Glentoran supporters released a cockerel and a pig that had been painted blue onto the pitch to antagonize Linfield supporters. The Oval has been used to host the final of the County Antrim Shield. In 2009, it hosted the Belfast City Cup, which involved matches between Legends teams representing Northern Irish clubs and English teams including Liverpool and Manchester United. The Oval has also been used to host the Setanta Cup final. It hosted the 2012 final between Belfast's Crusaders representing the IFA Premiership, and County Londonderry based Derry City, representing the League of Ireland.
- "Glentoran takes tour through the decades". Belfast Telegraph. 2011-08-04. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "WW2 People's War – Memories of the Belfast Blitz". BBC. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Oval and out for Glentoran". Belfast Telegraph. 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2014-02-17.
- "Real life survival battle at the Oval". Belfast Telegraph (archived at HighBeam). Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Glentoran plan new stand at Oval". BBC Sport. 2000-09-28. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Crowd trouble mars Belfast derby". BBC Sport. 2005-04-23. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Two charged over football rioting". BBC News. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Bomb found in east Belfast near Oval football ground". BBC News. 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Firework explodes in Glentoran coach's face". BBC News. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- Published on Monday 8 September 2008 00:33 (2008-09-08). "Protest over soccer match on Sunday". News Letter. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Football 1, Religion 1". BBC News. 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Football fans hit out at BNP over ‘nauseous’ protest at Glentoran match". Belfast Telegraph. 2010-10-11. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Could this be the year's best goal?". BBC. 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Glens defend Oval naming move". BBC Sport. 2010-09-21. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Glentoran confirm plans to relocate from Oval to Titanic Quarter". BBC Sport. 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Glens fans want to buy The Oval". BBC Sport. 2005-06-12. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Glentoran leave the Oval: 'It will be emotional to say farewell but we can savour new home comforts'". Belfast Telegraph. 2013-12-24. Retrieved 2014-03-01.
- "Jesus given a red card". Belfast: Sunday Life (archived at HighBeam). Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Glentoran 1 Shelbourne 0". When Saturday Comes. 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- Northern Ireland Assembly Answer to Written Question AQW1178/11
- Simon Inglis: The Football Grounds of Europe, pp 158. ISBN 0-00-218305-6
- "Restrictions 'murdering' local football". UTV. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Is it Oval and out for Glentoran?". Belfast Telegraph. 2010-10-23. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Poor lights pylon Oval congestion". Belfast Telegraph. 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "The world's deadliest derbies: Newcastle v Sunderland, Aston Villa v Birmingham, Ajax v Feyenoord, Partizan v Red Star Belgrade, Rangers v Celtic, Roma v Lazio and more". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- 22:34 GMT (2012-11-27). "Ballymena beat Linfield on penalties in Co Antrim Shield final". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Liverpool legend Neal rolls back years at the Oval". Belfast Telegraph. 2009-08-31. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Setanta Cup Final". UTV. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Oval.|
- Glentoran FC Website
- IFCP photos from The Oval Grounds
- Ground Hopper's tour of The Oval
- Aerial view of the Oval