IT’s simple really – just because you have a plan for a stadium doesn’t mean you’re going to have a stadium.
First we had the Neilstown Stadium. You probably don’t remember that one.
Then we had the Sonas Centre out at the Phoenix Park racecourse. The owners gambled on a casino to go with the stadium. They lost.
Then we had Eircom Park. A grand little plan with a lot to commend it. It was sunk by Bertie’s Bertiebowl.
And not even the imprimatur of the world’s most successful taoiseach could make the Abbotstown stadium a reality.
Then we have the Rovers stadium in Tallaght. Well, we have a bit of it. The rest should be along shortly as soon as we figure out who owns it and who is going to play in it.
That’s the ones that I can remember. You probably have your own failed stadium story.
Now the GAA have agreed to allow soccer and rugby into Croke Park while Lansdowne Road is being redeveloped. There is a genuine fear in the GAA that opening Croke Park will set a precedent that could see pressure on GAA grounds around the country. The GAA would effectively be providing grounds to two professional sports. That, in turn, could lead to all sorts of problems within the GAA.
So it is important that the opening of Croke Park is on the level and not some sort of scam or cash grab.
The new Lansdowne Road has not been given planning permission yet. We don’t know yet whether a serious legal challenge will be lodged against the project.
So, by next year, when soccer and rugby move into Croke Park it is quite possible that Lansdowne Road will be standing as it is now without a brick knocked out of it.
Once the other sports bodies warm their feet in Croke Park and once the GAA get use to the millions that international fixtures will bring, the temptation might be to leave things as they are.
Not only that but the Lansdowne Road site is worth in the order of €600m. Splitting that up between the various sports organisations might be equally tempting.
If any of this came to pass it would be a disaster for the GAA and Irish sport in general. Many people within the GAA would see this as a complete betrayal of the organisation.
I would be one of them.
The news that Shelbourne football club is thinking of selling Tolka Park is very sad indeed. They are doing this because the club is in debt and because the site is worth a fortune.
If this process continues every valuable soccer ground in the country is threatened.
If Shels can’t make money then money can’t be made from football. New rules should be brought in to protect football clubs from debt, like a draft system and a wage cap.
Selling assets won’t change things – it will just tide clubs over until the money is gone. Then the clubs will have neither assets or money.