Casement funding queries 'still to be addressed'

Gordon Lyons
Lyons admitted that he is still waiting for assurances from the UK government for funding for the redevelopment of Casement Park [BBC Sport]

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons says that Northern Ireland may have to "look at alternatives" for their involvement in Euro 2028 if Casement Park is not redeveloped.

The stadium in west Belfast has been earmarked as Northern Ireland's sole venue for the tournament which is taking place across 10 stadiums in the UK and Ireland.

The original cost of rebuilding the stadium a decade ago was estimated to be £77.5m.

However in March, the Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, suggested the final cost for the redevelopment of Casement Park, to transform it into a modern 34,000 capacity stadium, could exceed £300m.

Uefa's deadline for completion of the project is June 2027, but Mr Lyons admits that queries over funding have yet to be addressed.

"When it comes to Casement, I’m dependent on others to see it progress and a lot of that is outside of my hands," he told BBC Sport NI.

"We are waiting for confirmation from the UK government about their funding commitment but if we get to the stage where that is not available, I think we should be looking at other alternatives.

"We need to see how we might be able to still play a role here in Belfast and in Northern Ireland when the games come."

'Let's not rule anything out'

Mr Lyons was speaking at the announcement of The Northern Ireland Football Fund, previously known as the sub-regional stadia programme for soccer, where he allocated £36.2m to help upgrade football stadiums in Northern Ireland.

He also pledged cash for grassroots football and a national training centre, and said he believes the development of the latter could help Northern Ireland remain involved in Euro 2028 even if they do not host any games.

"I would love to see the Euros come to Northern Ireland in 2028 and I think it would create a huge legacy and inspire a lot of people to get involved."

He added that at the minute there is "no confirmation or clarity [on UK government funding] but we want to be involved".

"That’s why I’m saying if we don’t get the funding required for Uefa compliant stadium at Casement that we do find other ways to still be involved, as it would be fantastic," he explained.