Glentoran FC 'rejects stadium move plan'
A vice-president of Glentoran football club has said the club has rejected his alternative plan to the proposed £10m redevelopment of its Belfast grounds.
David Long wants the club to adopt a £17m proposal to develop the Belfast city council-owned Tommy Patton Park, off Holywood Road in east Belfast.
He said it would include a 5,000-seat stadium; outdoor grass and 3G floodlit pitches and other new facilities.
But the club wants a new £9.2m 6,000-seater stadium on its existing ground.
'Money left over'
A sum of £10m has already been earmarked for the project in the Northern Ireland Executive's sub-regional stadia programme for soccer which was published a year ago this week.
It invited suggestions about how to spend £36m of public money on improving Northern Ireland's football facilities - the money left over after the £28m rebuild of the new national stadium at Windsor Park, home of Glentoran's big rivals, Linfield.
But Mr Long, believes the Glentoran plan does not "stack up".
"I have supported Glentoran for 65 years", he told the BBC One programme, The View.
"In recent times I've put a lot of money into the Glentoran Academy, so I have a great interest in the club.
"And I did share my plans with the club but it would appear that, of the various potential stakeholders in this project who I've shared it with, sadly Glentoran are the only ones who have given it a thumbs down.
"It's their prerogative to make their choice. I can only opine that I don't think the Mersey Street redevelopment stacks up."
But does his own plan "stack up?"
His proposals for the Tommy Patton Park site also includes fitness suites, lecture rooms, a restaurant, changing rooms and sports medicine facility.
"Yes, I believe my plan stacks up. I've had some of the best engineering minds in the country; some of the best economic minds and business minds in the country help to put the plan together," Mr Long said.
Another club with big plans is the Irish League champions Crusaders. It wants £3m of the stadium cash to pay for a new stand at its Seaview ground as well as £1.7m for a community scheme being developed with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Crusaders director Mark Langhammer claims Glentoran FC is getting preferential treatment.
He said: "The consultation said there would be £36.2m, £10m of which was ring-fenced to Glentoran and Glentoran could also bid to some of the other pots. So you could see Glentoran getting £13m or £14m.
"Now that's as a direct result of a political carve-up that we oppose virulently. We're very concerned about it.
"If you look at clubs throughout the League, Ards don't have a ground, they have plans; Carrick have plans, Clinftonville have plans, Coleraine, Ballinamallard, Dungannon, all of these clubs have genuine needs. So we do need a rational way of spreading those needs to meet particular priorities."
Glentoran FC declined to comment, but the Alliance MLA for East Belfast, Chris Lyttle, defended the club's plan for its existing Oval grounds.
"The proposals were an executive agreement," he said.
"They were put out to public consultation over a year ago. We think they're exciting plans for Glentoran.
"We think they have a key role to play in the Irish League. Other clubs have had investment where Glentoran have not and we certainly hope, on this occasion, that they will get the investment they need to bring their exciting plans to fruition."
The Department for Communities said a report on the way forward on the sub-regional stadia programme is being prepared for the minister, Paul Givan.
The BBC understands it will be published before Christmas.
It means the stadium funding will be open for bids, and clubs like Crusaders and Glentoran will have to wait a little longer... though the game is entering the crucial stage.