Sunday 24 September 2017

UEFA praises Belfast's Super Cup bid but notes Windsor Park's lack of luxuries

Windsor Park is in the running to stage the 2019 UEFA Super Cup
Windsor Park is in the running to stage the 2019 UEFA Super Cup

UEFA has given Windsor Park's bid to host the 2019 Super Cup a broadly positive review but marked the Belfast venue down for lacking some of the luxuries expected at modern grounds.

Northern Ireland's home pitch is up against six other bids for the 2019 meeting of the winners of the Champions League and Europa League.

A decision on the winner will be made by UEFA next Wednesday (September 20), when the venues for the finals of the 2019 Champions League, Europa League and Women's Champions League will also be chosen.

In total, there are 14 bids for the four finals, with Windsor Park up against stadiums in Astana, Gdansk, Haifa, Istanbul, Tirana and Toulouse.

Each of these bids has been assessed by UEFA and its 70-page "Bid Evaluation Report" has been published online.

With a capacity of less than 19,000, Windsor Park is the smallest of the proposed venues but UEFA's evaluation team was very impressed with the Irish Football Association's (IFA) "vision, concept and legacy" plan for the game.

The IFA's proposals for promoting the game were also described as "excellent" and "straightforward" and Belfast scored well for its accommodation and transport links. The teams would train at Ulster University.

Windsor Park itself was praised for its facilities for disabled fans and got pass marks for access, capacity, office space, team facilities and safety record.

The report, however, did flag up the "slightly low" number of food outlets for fans and said the "proposed staff bistro is rather small".

The VIP stand and hospitality area was described as "well located and separated from the public and other target groups" but the report said the number of private boxes at Windsor Park's is "low" and noted a lack of corporate hospitality inside the stadium.

It said UEFA's "Super Cup Club would have to be built outside" the ground. Other mod cons deemed to be a little below expectations are the size of the media areas and number of indoor TV studios.

The report also said the rental fee for the ground and costs for staging the game "are slightly above UEFA's target" although only Astana, Haifa and Tirana meet this target price.

In fact, none of the seven bids got a perfect report so the IFA and Windsor Park can be reasonably happy with UEFA's report card and they certainly have a chance of being chosen next week.

The contest for the Champions League final is between Baku's 70,000-seat Olympic Stadium and Atletico Madrid's new 67,000-seat home the Wanda Metropolitano.

The report scores both well but it is perhaps worth noting that Baku's stadium would come free of charge to UEFA.

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