Go-ahead for Windsor Park overhaul
The Irish Football Association has confirmed it has been granted the funding needed for the redevelopment of Windsor Park.
The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) have approved the £31million funding for the modernisation of Northern Ireland's national football stadium in Belfast.
Sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin said: "This signals a new chapter in the history of Windsor Park.
"Funding of £31m will allow the Irish Football Association to modernise Windsor and raise the capacity to 18,000. This is a tremendous boost for the local football family which will see two new stands and two refurbished stands."
The minister said construction work would start in 2014.
The redevelopment will cost up to £35million in total, with the remaining £4million coming from the IFA.
It will include the completion of the East Stand, demolition of the South Stand and the construction of a new stand and renovation to the North and West Stands.
The funding grant will come as a relief to the IFA after the controversial re-appointment of David Martin to its board in September had put it in doubt.
Martin was elected as the first deputy president just three years after he left the post of treasurer.
Martin and the then IFA president Raymond Kennedy departed in 2010 when former chief executive Howard Wells successfully pursued a £500,000 unfair dismissal case against the governing body.
The departures of Martin and Kennedy came after then sports minister Nelson McCausland deemed the IFA unfit for purpose and DCAL was thought to be uneasy about the former's return to prominence.
A group of fans staged a protest against Martin's proposed reappointment ahead of August's World Cup qualifier against Russia and Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley even branded his election a "very worrying development".
IFA president Jim Shaw played down the issue, but he kept in close contact with DCAL over the Windsor Park project and his work has now been rewarded.