Stadium developments (and redevelopments)
Posted by John Beech on October 24, 2011
In the last couple of weeks, stadiums, both those which are newly planned and those where there has been or will be redevelopment, have being popping up on my radar screen with surprising regularity.
The saga of what to do with the Olympic stadium shows no signs of reaching resolution. Sadly we seem to be drifting into an Athens 2004 legacy situation. When I visited last year, the lady from the company still tasked with the legacy management of the infrastructure told me, with refreshing honesty, “You will have read a lot of bad things in the press about our legacy issues. All of them are true. But there also some good things.”
Basically the problem had been that everyone was too busy preparing the Games sites to worry about legacy until after the Games had taken place. No one could accuse LOCOG of not thinking about legacy – it’s just that their thoughts have never quite got round to making decisions.
Two issues trouble me with our stadium:
- Why is there still any question of any club other than Leyton Orient moving there? For West Ham or Tottenham to move there would be a clear breach of Premier League or Football League rules (see previous posting). Simply ignoring this most fundamental point does not in any way legitimise the situation.
- What of the issue of public money being spent on installing a football club there, and the blatant prejudging of who is to go there by Bojo (1)? If FIFA were in any way consistent in condemning political interference (and note my use of the subjunctive), we should be seeing the legendary FIFA gunboats heading up the Thames any day now.
Meanwhile, across London, Chelsea are faced with an unusual situation as they plan to move from Stamford Bridge – the way that the Stamford Bridge stadium ownership was tied up Ken Bates to prevent it being sold. This was undoubtedly his greatest footballing contribution, although pedants might question my use of a superlative that implies he made three good footballing contributions. This looks to be a saga in the making because of the failure to keep records up to date (2), and the club will face opposition from its fans (3), focused into the Say No CPO group. The club management must have been off sick when Marketing101 was scheduled.
Close by, Fulham have announced plans to redevelop part of Craven Cottage (4). This pursuit of the ‘Molineux model’ rather than following a high risk ‘new stadium’ strategy is to be commended. The alternative is the infinitely depressing ‘Fossetts Farm model’ (see postings passim or Southend United’s own New Stadium webpage).
When planning turns to stadium development or redevelopment, much depends on the attitude of the local council. Three current cases are:
- Plymouth Argyle, where the local council has agreed to pay £1.6m for Home Park and rent it back to the club for £135,000 a year. This will hopefully facilitate a last-ditch rescue, but it should be remembered that the club had bought the ground from the council for £2.7m in 2006 (5).
- Swansea City, where the council-owned Liberty Stadium is rented to Swansea City and the Ospreys, and continues to be run at a loss (6). Can any reader with a deeper local knowledge explain this unlikely scenario?
- Doncaster, where the council-owned Keepmoat Stadium seems to be creating a worrying financial burden for Doncaster council tax payers (7). Again, any deeper local insight would be appreciated.
What is disturbing in all of this is the reliance on the public purse. Any talk of ‘rich clubs’ is a joke in the broader footballing context. Mind you, mention of ‘rich clubs’ and the public purse must raise a reminder of the shockingly bad deal (from the perspective of Manchester council tax payers) struck between the local council and Manchester City.