The European Commission has approved a financial package valued at £110 million for the reconstruction of three sports stadiums in Belfast on the basis that the grant will contribute to urban regeneration and social cohesion, in line with the EU objectives. The grant will be used to rebuild three old sports stadiums in Belfast with a view to providing modern, state-of-the-art venues for the three main sports of the region, namely football, gaelic games and rugby. It will be shared between three beneficiaries: the Irish Football Association for the soccer Windsor Park Stadium (£31 million / €37.4 million), the Ulster Council Gaelic Athletic Association for the gaelic games Casement Park Stadium (£62.5 million / €75.4 million) and the Ulster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union for the rugby Ravenhill Stadium (£16.5 million / €19.9 million).
There is little public guidance and case law on state aid issues in the sporting area. A copy of the Commission’s press release can be found at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-406_en.htm and the decision will be published once confidentiality issues have been resolved.
Anneli Howard advised the Northern Ireland Government and Department for Culture and Leisure on the notification of the measure and the design of the project to enhance public interest policy objectives in terms of encouraging public access to sport, educational initiatives, community sport, disability programmes and promoting social cohesion across religious communities.