Major facelift for Lansdowne Road

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Plans to redevelop Lansdowne Road received the green light yesterday with the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Football Association of Ireland receiving government backing to transform the world's oldest international rugby stadium into a 50,000-seat state-of-the-art sports arena at an estimated cost of €250m (£173m).

The stadium, which will include three-tier structures for the East and West Stands and single-tier stands at the Lansdowne Road and Havelock Square ends, is due to be completed by 2008.

The IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: "We greatly appreciate the support of the Government in endorsing our ambition that Irish rugby and sport in general should have the facility of a stadium of this standard and magnitude."

The Irish government has pledged €167m towards the cost of the development, with the IRFU and FAI expected to provide the remaining €83m.

The Irish cabinet rejected an alternative plan, favoured by Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, to build a new stadium with a capacity of up to 80,000 at a site in north-west Dublin. A sports campus will be built there instead with medical, research and training facilities.