UEFA Under-19 Championship Northern Ireland 2024

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 am on 18 June 2024.

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Photo of Brian Kingston Brian Kingston DUP 10:30, 18 June 2024

We have been able to enjoy watching on television the UEFA European Championship matches in Germany these evenings, and the standard of football has been good so far. However, it will not finish for us here in Northern Ireland with the Euros final on Sunday 14 July. The next day, Monday 15 July, is the start of the men's UEFA Under-19 Championship in Northern Ireland, which will run for two weeks until Sunday 28 July. Eight countries will take part: Spain, Italy, France, Denmark, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey and Northern Ireland, as the hosts. The venues for the group matches will be the Seaview stadium in Belfast and Inver Park in Larne, with the semi-finals and final scheduled to be staged at the national football stadium at Windsor Park on Sunday 28 July.

It will be a great chance to see emerging stars of the future. Most of the top European players of today, such as Mbappé and Ronaldo, played in that tournament in their day. Tickets are very reasonably priced at just £2 for children and £5 for adults. I encourage folks to check out the section on the Irish Football Association (IFA) website. Taking part in the tournament is a big step up for Northern Ireland. We wish our under-19 manager and Northern Ireland legend, Gareth McAuley, and his young squad every success in the tournament that we are hosting.

Training sessions for the teams are being held at a range of local community venues. I know that the board of Paisley Park Sportsplex, off the West Circular Road in Belfast, is delighted to be hosting some of those training sessions on the restored 3G pitch. The tournament will result in a legacy of investment in some of those venues and strengthens the need for a national training centre, which is to include a grass pitch. There will also be fan zones and community activities during the tournament.

Whatever the outcome is for Northern Ireland sharing in the British/Irish hosting of the 2028 Euros, the hosting of the under-19 tournament this summer is a great credit to the Irish Football Association. In particular, it is part of the legacy of the work of the late Craig Stanfield, who did so much to attract major UEFA tournaments to Northern Ireland. It builds on our hosting of the women's UEFA Under-19 tournament in 2017 and the UEFA Super Cup in 2021. It is fitting that the Junior Cup is now named after Craig Stanfield, in recognition of his work.

I wish to express particular thanks to Malcolm Roberts at the IFA for his information and assistance and for his work in promoting the tournament.