Ex-Sports Minister’s early substitution cause of poor form?

ALLIANCE Sports Spokesperson Councillor Michael Long (Castlereagh) has accused former Sports Minister Michael McGimpsey of predicting doom and gloom for a major new sports stadium in Northern Ireland before the first brick is laid.

Cllr Long objected to Mr McGimpsey’s suggestion that Ravenhill, Windsor Park and Casement Park stadiums could be upgraded, stating that only a new stadium in a neutral venue could overcome sectarian problems associated with existing grounds.

Cllr Long said: “Whilst Cllr McGimpsey is hardly the type to do cartwheels about any proposal, I have found his downbeat analysis of the Government’s proposals for a major new stadium to be very disappointing.

“One can only assume that his lack of enthusiasm is in part due to the fact that the Government has moved forward with the concept faster than he did as Sports Minister. But he was brought off early before he could impress, and the substitute filling his boots is now surging up the field.

“Alliance has not kicked plans for a new stadium into touch. Having visited the Millennium stadium, Murrayfield and Croke Park, it seems odd that anyone should suggest that we settle for the second rate stadia we currently have.

“I also believe that Mr McGimpsey’s alternative proposal of upgrading the existing grounds would fail to provide facilities to attract a new generation of sports fans. It would also fail to address the sectarianism associated with the existing facilities.

“Only a new stadium in a neutral venue, operated by all three of the main sports here, will provide an opportunity for football, GAA and rugby to attract those from non-traditional backgrounds to their matches, and hopefully end the blight of sectarianism in local sport.”

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