Croke Park/Eircom Park – a perfect combination

15th September 2000

IT’S a crackin’ match but the boy Bertie’s shown a bit too much of that to the opposition. Obviously, like, his defence (dept of) has soaked up most of the pressure and he’s bound to throw bodies forward in the second half.

Ah yes. This match was never going to be boring. Now it’s Bertie versus the FAI and the contest is getting very interesting.

Earlier this week South Dublin County Council gave Eircom Park planning permission. On the same day Bertie was talking up the prospects for Stadium Ireland.

On the face of it Bertie makes the more rational argument. The FAI stand to gain a £40 million windfall if they agree to move to Stadium Ireland.

The Government will pay for the entire cost (with a little help from their friends) and the FAI can still sell all the corporate boxes.

It’s very hard to understand why the FAI don’t want to go for this deal.

The sale of their own boxes and corporate franchising might well take two ten-year terms to pay for Eircom Park. Meanwhile, they could be up £80 million at today’s prices. I admit that I’m baffled.

The IRFU is laughing. If anything they will far exceed the FAI’s dealings with the corporate sector.

They could be looking at £100 million over the next 20 years, with a free stadium to replace their clapped out one and a very nice piece of real estate in Dublin 4 to flog, thank you very much.

The GAA must be green with envy. All the money they have made, including the £25 million from the Government, has gone into bricks and mortar. In fact, the GAA will have to borrow millions to finish the Hogan Stand.

The prospect of the FAI and the IRFU having tens of millions to spend on club facilities and youth training while Croke Park has to wait years just to break even must be causing sleepless nights on Jones Road.

And on foot of the Government’s largess of late, the GAA have to cosy up to them and croon about what a good idea Stadium Ireland is.

And what about us, the tax payers? We’re going to have to stump up £400 million or so for Stadium Ireland.

The whole thing is irrational so I’m going to suggest some common sense.

Croke Park should be the National Stadium. Eircom Park should be built at the Stadium Ireland complex and Stadium Ireland should be shelved. Let me explain.

Firstly, Croke Park is ideal for the National Stadium. It will hold 80,000 people with scope for expansion. It is located in town near to all the public transport hubs and accommodation.

It can be altered to hold athletics and the playing area is big enough to accommodate all sports.

Secondly, Eircom Park is a perfect complement to Croke Park. At 45,000 capacity it offers an appropriate venue for events of lesser appeal.

And it’s covered, which must be an essential consideration for any modern Irish venue.

However, Eircom Park’s playing area is too small as currently designed to hold Gaelic games. It would need to be 30 meters longer. A small design change.

Matches could be switched between either venue depending on the demand for tickets.

It’s obvious now that less than 40,000 people at the new Croke Park and the place will be like a morgue. The National League finals could be played indoors in spring and hurling, in particular, would benefit from the predictability of the surface.

The FAI could play friendlies in Eircom Park and play England in Croke Park. Ditto the IRFU.

The new sports campus could be still be built around the new Eircom Park.

In this scenario, the FAI, the IRFU, the GAA and the nation all gain top class stadia and save around £300 million into the bargain.

Now for the politics. The Government would have to win over the FAI and the GAA to this vision.

They might have to appeal directly to the rank and file. It would be worth it.


As well as that…

Autocrats are running Croke Park

The fascist regime that is now in place at Croke Park were at it again last weekend.

Supporters at the All-Ireland Hurling Final found themselves corralled in by the hired heavies that now have the run of the place.

It has to be said that Croke Park is now the least enjoyable sports venue in the country to attend. The atmosphere is oppressive, there’s always an official or a closed door to avoid and control freakery has taken a dead hold on the administration.

The after-match ban on supporters going on to the pitch exemplifies the situation. Not a shred of evidence has been produced to show that the pitch invasion is any more dangerous than, say, having 25,000 people gathered in Kilkenny City.

But the Croke Park administration never feels the need to explain themselves. It’s obvious they feel that fans are a nuisance.

People are harried out of the stadium by the constant announcements made by the dalek they employ, while outside people are crammed onto the streets. They don’t want the peasants hanging for 10 minutes to chat. And, of course, once liability is moved outside, Croke Park needn’t worry.

This, from the people we need to defend Hill 16. I wouldn’t be too confident.