Queen’s University, named in honour of Queen Victoria has stood in Belfast for over a Century and has grown from it’s single Victorian building into a vast complex spreading out over several different sites in the City. Like all Universities, Queen’s have societies and clubs catering for just about everything you can think of and so it was natural for the students to form a football team in 1900.
Until 2003 the club played on the aptly named Queen’s University playing fields but the criteria needed for membership of the Irish league division two saw the club move a mile down the road to share the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Newforge Lane ground. This was Queen’s first season in this division as they were one of four clubs given a place in the new expanded league.
The first thing about visiting Newforge Lane is that it feels weird – firstly it’s not really a football ground. The road itself takes you to the Police Service of Northern Ireland Country club and it is a little off putting when you arrive to see the sign stating that this is a private members club. Naturally the nature of the place makes it the most secure ground you could visit. There was in truth no trouble in gaining entry to the complex and once inside it is very impressive.
The club itself is not strictly open to spectators as it is after all a private country club but if you ask permission and don’t just take it for granted that you can enter you can get a decent meal in the bar before the game.
The site is a huge sports complex and on any given Saturday afternoon football, rugby and hockey games are all taking place while there is also a crown bowling green and cricket lawns for the summer months. The main football pitch has been sectioned off from the other sports facilities to meet Irish League regulations and the pitch itself could put many English Premier league surfaces to shame. It is easily the best football pitch I have ever encountered.
Whether Queen’s will stay at Newforge or develop their own ground on the University playing fields will probably depend on their final position in the division. It would be pointless for them to start on such a venture only to lose their status as a second division club and they seem quite happy where they are anyway.
Queen’s are missing out on one vital element that most of their divisional rivals have, the revenue from a social club on site. It was disappointing to find that support from the University itself was non-existent.
STADIUM NAME UNIVERSITY PLAYING FIELDS (the club currently play at Newforge lane, the home of PSNI as their own ground is not up to league standard)
BUILT 1975 (the playing fields were laid in that year but as yet no stadium has been built)
GATE PRICES £3
Queen’s are in the unusual situation of representing a University rather than an area of Belfast, which makes them something of a throwback to the amateur English days of the Victorian era. There are no season ticket holders though they probably have thousands of closet fans who keep an eye out from time to time on the club’s progress, being the graduates of the University itself. Die-hards who go to the games are harder to find however.
The club are technically homeless, using the grounds of their nearest rivals PSNI. The University playing fields are still in use by other representatives of the University and it does not take millions of pounds to enclose a field to Irish League standard. The big benefits for the University team would be that other sports teams would use the facilities as well and money would be coming in if a club house was built.
The University has been home to a few International footballers but none of them seem to have turned out for the football club.
THE DAVID WATTON STAND
The stand is the only covered and seated area on the ground running from the edge of one penalty area to the half way line and seating 113 people. The funniest thing about the stand is the segregation barrier half way along it. Standing three feet high it would hardly stop any trouble, not that there would be any chance of trouble at this ground. a narrow footpath takes you from the only two turnstiles in the ground to the stand, although the turnstiles are a little silly as the wall into which they are built only runs for another couple of feet before a tarmac road provides access to the ground anyway. Beyond the stand the paved path continues and also provides access to the toilet block which is communal, although only four women turned up for the fixture. The changing rooms and boardroom are situated behind the stand and double up as changing rooms for the adjacent bowling green.
THE HOCKEY PITCH SIDE
There is nothing to speak of on this side of the ground except a more than adequate car park and the complex’s all weather hockey pitch. For spectators there is a paved walkway to stand and watch the game as the pitch is ranch fenced off but moss growing from between the slabs makes this a precarious place to stand.
THE NEWFORGE LANE END
No terracing at this ground as both ends are simply fenced off with ranch fencing. The Newforge end is the only end where any development has taken place in the form of a road to the carpark beyond. From here you can watch the action but there is some distance to the goal that you are standing behind and because of this nobody bothered with this end during this game until the final stages.
THE PLAYING FIELDS END
Nothing at all at this end of the ground except a well kept peice of grassland behing the goal. This end was totally unloved by the three dozen spectators but on the plus side there is more than enough room for a decent terrace if required in the future
There is nothing available yet at the University playing fields. Newforge lane is set on a private members country club and so has a bar and restaurant on site. There does not seem to be any problem gaining entry to the bar but it may be best to ask first before going in.
Again the members club is the only facility offering food at Newforge Lane. Remember that it is a proper sit down meal on offer here and not the usual greasy fish and chips so if you fancy a bite to eat allow for the extra cost and extra time to eat it.
None. Items bearing the University logo can be purchased at the University itself though scarves would have a more University rather than football look about them.
Toilets are situated behind the stand though the opinion of the visiting Dundela fans was that standards in this regard were slipping. The loo is communal and is basically a small portacabin with a urinal and a toilet.
No problems for the disabled here except that wheelchair users had better bring an umbrella as the only cover is in the tiny David Watton stand and this is the only part of the ground that chairs cant gain access to.
Official Website (seems dead)