Casement conundrum rumbles on amid GAA revenue loss

The GAA has reported a loss in revenue of €68m due to the Covid pandemic, but what might that mean for one of the sport’s most talked about plans at Casement Park?

The west Belfast site has been in a state of disrepair for nearly a decade, after years of delays and disputes that have seen the estimated cost of redevelopment soar from £77m to £112m.

And Stormont officials have conceded the final bill will be larger still.

Last year, there seemed to finally be progress with the Northern Ireland Executive and the GAA agreeing to meet the ever-increasing cost of the project.

And now, the GAA has confirmed that although it may take longer than originally anticipated, they are still financially committed to the rebuild.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has denied she is in a stand-off with the GAA over the soaring costs and says she is awaiting completion of the full business case for the project before intensifying negotiations on exactly how the bills will be paid.

“I don’t see a stand-off in terms of at the moment,” she said.

“There has been good discussions and engagements with the GAA in terms of the development.”

Ms Hargey added that her department has already been on record stating that GAA needs to increase its contribution.

“All that will be finalised in the full business case once the planning certificate has been given and then those negotiations will step up at a greater pace over the coming months, once we have that certificate in place - which I'm hopeful to be in the coming weeks,” she said.

The GAA’s efforts to develop the old Casement Park stadium have been mired in controversy, with initial planning approval for a 38,000-capacity venue quashed by the High Court in 2014 following a challenge by nearby residents.

The revised redevelopment plan envisages a 34,000-plus venue.