Irish Windsor Park pitch first World Cup victim

The Irish FA has decided to replace the pitch at Windsor Park, the Irish National Stadium. The surface of the stadium was lambasted by Linfield boss David Healy after last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Crusaders.

Windsor Park

The Irish FA has decided to replace the pitch at Windsor Park, the Irish National Stadium. The surface of the stadium was lambasted by Linfield boss David Healy after last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Crusaders.

The Blues manager even went as far as questioning the maintenance quality from the IFA.

“There have been no international games in October and November and maybe some people have taken their eye off the ball,” he was quoted saying in the local newspaper the Belfast Telegraph.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the IPA recently hosted the launch of the the new McDonald’s Fun Football project at the stadium, during which up to 200 people were allowed on the field.

Not unexpected

The development is in line with what many have feared now the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be played during the winter period. In this column for Sportsfields.info, Erwin Beltman warns clubs and stadium owners to continue operating their pitch heating and adhering to their normal maintenance programme despite the high prices currently being paid for energy and the fact that most competitions have been halted. “Saving money on pitch maintenance during this time of the year, will come at a heavy price later this season,” he advocated.

Apparently, the warning was too little, too late for the Windsor Park stadium management. Following Healy’s complaints, the overhead heating lamps were used regularly in the week after in an attempt to help the pitch.

Tender advertised

Nevertheless, on Thursday morning, the IFA invited interested parties to enter into dialogue about the logistics of lifting and replacing the turf at Windsor in a short space of time.

“The Irish FA are looking to replace the pitch at the National Football Stadium in Belfast,” read a tender notice on a government website.

“This project has a critical timetable for completion and we are looking to engage with the market to understand more about innovative methods used for project delivery; detail about similar projects completed; and information relating to the type of carpets we may consider for the pitch replacement. We would also welcome discussion on ongoing maintenance recommendations so that we can develop our specification fully.”

Despite use of the term “carpets”, the IFA are understood to be focusing on a grass pitch or hybrid surface and not an artificial surface.

The pitch at Windsor Park has been relaid several times in recent years and has suffered in recent months from the stadium design, which perennially restricts sunlight under the South Stand, and the lack of overhead heat lamps in recent weeks and months, due to a combination of mild weather and rising energy costs.

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