The trouble with new stadiums 3
Posted by John Beech on July 26, 2010
[See also The trouble with new stadiums 1, which looked at the argument that “We’re a club with ambition and we need more seats to reflect that ambition“, and The trouble with new stadiums 2, which looked at the argument that “We’ve got the wrong sort of stadium. We need one better suited to maximising our revenue streams.”]
The third argument that is often put for building a new stadium is:
- There’s this amazing property deal we can do. We’ll sell the old stadium for redevelopment and there’ll be loads of money to build the new one.
My first reaction to this is, I would have to admit, intuitive. I’m a believer in the maxim that, if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true.
On the basis of evidence however, I would argue that in far too many cases two problems arise when this argument is out forward.
Firstly, there may well be concerns as to who exactly ‘we’ refers to. Does it refer to the club as ‘construct’, or to the club as ‘company’? In other words, who will see the benefit financially – the club itself or the owners? Or in the case of Southend United, the Chairman and his family (1). The core issue is as much one of transparency as one of the rights and wrongs of who benefits. Unless who precisely benefits is made clear from the beginning, fans may well end up feeling they have been misled.
The second problem is the understandable euphoria that the announcement of plans for a new stadium brings. It also tends to bring a lack of realism on both the potential costs and the potential for delays resulting from, for example, planning problems. In the latter case, it never ceases to amaze me that clubs do not anticipate that planning to build in a green belt area might just invoke some opposition. Even having the local council ‘onside’ is no guarantee that there will be no problems – an election can mean going back to square on.
What tends to happen as costs escalate and planning battles rage on is that any Plan B becomes forgotten, and the club’s board become obsessed with pushing through their Plan A as a matter of dogma. All too often it is not just a case of dogma; it’s a case of having become embroiled with developers. The board have manoeuvred the club into a position where they cannot back out – the new supermarket rather than the new stadium is what it is then all about. Which takes me back to the exception I mentioned in my previous posting – if the owner’s expertise lies in property development it may become difficult to keep focus on the best interests of the club.
I suspect, if you have now read all three of my postings, that you may well have gathered that I am not a fan of the ‘new stadium’. To be fair, I have been arguing my case as a generalised one. There are cases where there are exceptional circumstances which mitigate strongly towards building a new stadium, and I’ll turn to these shortly in a fourth and final posting in this series.