Windsor Park: The Kop’s last stand

READY TO COME DOWN: Windsor Park's West Stand ' also known as The Kop ' is set to be demolished  Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
READY TO COME DOWN: Windsor Park's West Stand ' also known as The Kop ' is set to be demolished Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The Irish FA faces a frantic race against time to get Windsor Park ready for Northern Ireland’s crunch Euro 2016 showdown with Romania on June 13.

It was confirmed that the game will go ahead as planned at the national stadium.

The damaged 4,000 capacity West Stand – also known as The Kop – is to be totally demolished, with the IFA accelerating work on the brand new East Stand, South East quadrant and South Stand.

New seating is also being fast tracked to be integrated into the newly-constructed East and South sides of the stadium, in a bid to meet the 10,000 capacity for the Romania fixture.

Cracks were discovered in the West Stand following Northern Ireland’s game against Finland last month.

The cause of the problem is not yet known.

The demolition recommendation came after a series of meetings with all interested parties which considered all the available evidence and following the review of a structural engineer’s report which was received towards the end of last week.

Preparation for this work will begin immediately, with Northern Ireland’s home clash with Romania just over seven weeks ahead.

“It is unfortunate that it has taken so long to reach this point, but we couldn’t make any decision unless we were totally confident, and we are confident we will have Windsor Park ready for June 13,” IFA president Jim Shaw said.

“I have always said I wanted this Euro qualifier to be played at Windsor. We have won our first two home qualifiers in the campaign and there is that ‘12th man’ factor as well.”

As for the long-term future of the West Stand site, Shaw says it is too early to speculate on any rebuild timescale.

“It is unfortunate that the stand will have to be demolished, and obviously it will have to be rebuilt,” he added.

“We were looking at having the stadium refurbishment completed by mid-November, but that isn’t going to happen now.

“It is too early to be speculating over when the West Stand will be rebuilt and finished.

“Our main priority is to accelerate works on the other stands so that we can accommodate 10,000 fans for the June 13 clash with Romania.”