Windsor Park

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Windsor Park
Windsor Park football stadium - Empty.JPG
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland
Broke ground 1905
Opened 1905
Renovated 1996 & 2014-16
Owner Linfield F.C.
Surface grass
Capacity 12,950[1](18,000 after renovation)
Field dimensions 110 x 75 yards
Tenants
Linfield F.C.
Northern Ireland national football team

Windsor Park is a football stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland and the home ground of Linfield F.C. and the Northern Ireland national football team. It is also where the Irish Cup final is played.

History[edit]

Named after the district in south Belfast in which it is located, Windsor Park was first opened in 1905, with a match between Linfield and Glentoran. Most of the current stadium was designed and built in the 1930s, to a design made by the Scottish architect Archibald Leitch. It had one main seated stand - the Grandstand, now known as the South Stand - with "reserved" terracing in front, and a large open terrace behind the goal to the west called the Spion Kop. To the north, there was a long covered terrace - the "unreserved" terracing - and behind the eastern goal at the Railway End another covered terrace. Windsor Park's peak capacity in this format was 60,000. In the early 1960s, the seated Railway Stand was built at the Railway End, and in the early 1970s a social club and viewing lounge was constructed in the corner between the Railway Stand and the Grandstand. In the 1980s, the 'unreserved terrace' was demolished and replaced by a two-tier, 7000-seat North Stand. In the late 1990s, the Kop terrace was demolished and replaced with the 5000-seater Kop Stand. The Kop Stand was known as the Alex Russell Stand from 2004-2008 in honour of Linfield's former goalkeeper and coach and one-time Northern Ireland international, but reverted to being named 'The Kop Stand' following this.[2]

The stadium holds 24,734, but is currently restricted to 12,342 under safety legislation, with an increase to 12,950 permitted for international matches utilising temporary seating. At present the ground has only three sides.[3] For most Linfield home games only the South Stand and Kop stand are opened. The North Stand is usually given to away supporters, and was re-roofed for the 2010–11 season.[4]

Redevelopment[edit]

Owing to the increasingly poor condition of Windsor Park,[5][6] various proposals for its replacement were mooted, including the idea of a multi-purpose stadium hosting football, rugby union and Gaelic games on the site of the former Maze prison, or a national stadium built as part of a major leisure development at Sydenham in east Belfast.[7] The plans for the multi-purpose stadium at the Maze site was strongly protested by essentially all the Northern Ireland match-going supporters. Various petitions in opposition to the suggestion, as well as organised displays of opposition at matches and the presentation counter-proposals, were arranged by Supporters Clubs in a bid to block any move to the Maze.

In September 2009, the Irish Football Association (IFA) announced that its preferred option was to remain at a redeveloped Windsor Park.[8] In 2011, the Northern Ireland Executive allocated £138m for a major programme of stadium redevelopment throughout Northern Ireland, with £28m allocated to the redevelopment of Windsor Park into a 20,000-capacity all-seater stadium.[9]

In 2012, details of the stadium's redevelopment were released. The plan would see Windsor Park become an 18,000 all-seater stadium with a series of phased works originally intended to begin in the summer of 2013. Plans included the demolition of both the Railway and South Stand structures to be replaced by new stands that would partially enclose the stadium, the complete renovation of the existing North and West Stands, and construction of both new conferencing facilities and a new headquarters facility for the IFA.[10][11]

In February 2013, planning permission for the redevelopment was granted, with the estimated cost of the project around £29.2 million, of which £25.2 million would come from government funding. It was planned for the work to begin in September 2013.[12] Two months later however, an application for leave for judicial review of the government funding was lodged by Crusaders, who claimed that it was against European Union competition laws and also a form of state aid to Linfield. In a hearing that took place on 22 May 2013, Crusaders' request was granted, after the judge ruled that they had presented an arguable case that the redevelopment could be classified as state aid towards Linfield. The aspect of the challenge concerning competition law however, was thrown out.[13]

In July 2013, Crusaders agreed to a possible settlement brought forward by the judicial review. The details of the settlement were not forthcoming, but Crusaders said that it had the "potential to benefit the entirety of the football family".[14] In September 2013, sports minister Carál Ní Chuilín said that she was still committed to making sure the redevelopment went ahead as scheduled, after previously stating that she would not sign off on the funding until the IFA sorted out the "governance issues" surrounding David Martin's return to the role of deputy president.[15] In December 2013, three months after the work was originally scheduled to begin, the redevelopment was finally given the green light, with the sports minister signing off on £31 million of funding to complete the project. Work is scheduled to begin in early 2014 and be completed in 2016.[16]

International matches[edit]

The venue usually sees its biggest crowds for Northern Ireland internationals, from which Linfield receive 15% of the gate receipts.[17] A 100-year agreement was signed by the Irish Football Association (IFA) in 1985 for Northern Ireland to play all home internationals at Windsor Park.[18]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°34′57.45″N 5°57′18.68″W / 54.5826250°N 5.9551889°W / 54.5826250; -5.9551889

Preceded by
Tolka Park
Host of the Setanta Sports Cup Final
2007
Succeeded by
Turners Cross