Stadium opponents must agree an alternative

21st March 2001

A MAN on the radio giving his tuppence-worth on the Statium Ireland proposal said that if the whole place was going to cost £1,000 million, he would prefer if they spent £1 million in a thousand places.

I couldn’t have put it better myself. And in essence this is the alternative to this monster of a proposal.

You would want to be clinically dead not to be excited by Stadium Ireland and the surrounding Sports Campus Ireland. Just the sheer scale of the ambition is a massive turnaround in our psychological perception of ourselves as a people.

Twenty years ago, when the collective arse was out of our trousers, we couldn’t fix the potholes in the roads. Our young people went abroad with their eyes low and their estimation of Ireland even lower.

So Stadium Ireland represents a huge about-turn in the national psyche – new confidence, new self-belief and enormous expectations. It’s great really.

So I don’t want to rubbish any of that.

One of the things about having a few bob is that you get to choose how to spend it.

Let’s take at face value the Government’s claim that spending on Stadium Ireland won’t take away from spending anywhere else in the economy.

And let’s agree that the whole kit and kaboodle will leave no change out of a billion punts when it’s done.

As I understand it, Sports Campus Ireland will be a centre of excellence where the most promising of Irish sportsmen and women will have available to them the very best techniques, advice, facilities and personnel that money can buy.

As well as that there will be an indoor arena, an Olympic standard swimming complex and, of course, Stadium Ireland. Places where we can watch the best in the world perform.

I don’t like any of this.

This vision of sport fits into its role in the entertainment industry where the actors are groomed for the big night and the rest of us come to ooh and ahh over them.

It shows how professionalism has completely usurped the traditional role of sport to its own ends. In this model the purpose of every soccer club is to provide fodder for the Premiership. Everything else is a form of failure.

This is the situation where we adopt a national sulk when we don’t do well at the Olympics.

In short, it’s elitism gone mad and if we want to clip its wings in Ireland then we need an alternative strategy to the Stadium Ireland one.

In this respect the recent decision of the FAI to abandon Eircom Park clears the way for a proper debate. It is also timely in that we are about 12 months short of a general election.

So an alternative needn’t be just pie-in-the-sky. It can be a political alternative with a good chance of being implemented.

Another new change is the arrival of Michael Noonan as Fine Gael leader. His first move is against corporate donations and his goal is that politics should be for the broader public.

Well now he has the opportunity to put that ideology into a wider context. He should lead the way against the Stadium Ireland plan.

The alternative is to spend £10 million in 100 places (you won’t get much for £1 million these days). Nothing less than a sporting centre for every 40,000 people in the State.

In Dublin this would mean 25 major new sports complexes offering people a range of sports hitherto undreamt of. It offers the possibility of mass participation using the very best of facilities.

It also throws away the idea that an individual is a hurler, or a footballer, or a javelin thrower or whatever. It would give people many sports to participate in simultaneously – against the professional ethic.

There is no time to be lost. Fine Gael and the Labour Party should offer this alternative immediately so that people can chew on it before an election.

If it’s Stadium Ireland or nothing then Bertie Bowl is unstoppable.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As well as that…

The curse of Eircom

THE Anti-King Midas, they say, turns everything he touches to s****.

Has Eircom got the Anti-King Midas touch? Can you think of one Eircom success story since the company dropped the Telecom Eireann logo?

Now all the talk is of ‘the Eircom Park fiasco’ and ‘the Eircom Park debacle’. It’s got nothing to do with Eircom but their name is all over it.

Napoleon said that you need to lucky to be a good general. Shareholders of Eircom are ruing their luck.

Where’s the ‘save Lansdowne’ campaign?

THE rugby fraternity weren’t long ditching their sentimentality when filthy lucre was waved under their nose.

Widely acknowledged as still the best place in Europe to watch (or should I say experience) a rugby match despite its archaic facilities, not a tear has been shed over its demise.

Well it’s not over till the final whistle, as they say, and Lansdowne Road may yet get a reprieve. If Croke Park was adopted as the national stadium, a medium sized venue would also be required.

If only to keep the shower of whingers around Croke Park happy.