EURO 2028: Community's hope amidst controversy in Belfast

source: |; author: Kuba Kowalski

EURO 2028: Community's hope amidst controversy in Belfast Casement Park, a name synonymous with Gaelic sports in West Belfast, now stands at the center of a spirited discussion in Northern Ireland. Its proposed redevelopment for the Euro 2028 has ignited a debate that transcends sport, touching upon issues of community development, financial prudence, and national identity.


Divided public opinion on Casement Park refurbishment

In the lead-up to Euro 2028, Casement Park's redevelopment plans have been met with a mix of anticipation and skepticism among Northern Ireland's residents. A LucidTalk opinion poll reveals a complex landscape of public opinion. While 54% of respondents are in favor of hosting Euro 2028 games at the West Belfast venue, 31% oppose it. This division is marked by political lines, with 94% of nationalists and 69% of Alliance/Green voters supporting the proposal, in stark contrast to only 12% of unionists. Notably, almost 70% of unionists are actively against it, and 60% would prefer that Northern Ireland host no games if Casement Park is the only venue option​​​​.

The disparity in opinions is further highlighted by visible protests. Some Northern Ireland team supporters have displayed banners and vocal opposition against the proposed use of Casement Park, which is planned to be a 34,000 seater GAA stadium. This sentiment reflects a deeper unease, with just over 40% of nationalists not comfortable attending a Northern Ireland game at Casement​​.

Casement Park Stadium

New Casement Park - economic and community impact

Amidst this debate, proponents of the redevelopment emphasize the transformative impact it could have on West Belfast. A newly redeveloped Casement Park is envisioned as not just a sports venue but a catalyst for economic growth and community development. It promises to bring an influx of football fans, an economic boost, and a lasting legacy for a part of the city long overlooked for significant capital investments.

The project is seen as more than just about the European Championships; it's about bringing jobs, investment, and opportunity to a region in need. This perspective underlines the potential of the stadium to change the face of West Belfast, driving new business and community revitalization​​.

However, financial considerations cast a shadow over these ambitions. LINFIELD manager David Healy has questioned the financial viability of the project, noting the spiraling costs and the uncertainty of Northern Ireland's participation in the finals. The initial budget of £77 million has ballooned, and there are concerns about hosting less attractive fixtures at a substantial cost. Healy's perspective is reflective of a broader concern about allocating significant government funds to this project amidst pressing societal needs like health and education​​.

Casement Park Stadium