Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

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.


5 Responses to “Stadium developments (and redevelopments)”

  1. Jim Webber said

    John: as a Leyton Orient fan I am amazed that Barry Hearn is talking up the idea of moving to the Olympic stadium. The Os are drawing an average of about 4000 fans to home games this year. That would be unlikely to increase if the club move to the Olympic stadium. In fact, I’d bet that once the novelty wore off and the horrors of playing in a massive, empty athletics stadium sank in, attendances might actually fall.

    Actually, come to think of it, I’m not surprised at Hearn’s position at all. There are already blocks of flats at each corner of the Brisbane Road ground. Think how much money Hearn could make if he could build on the pitch!

    • John Beech said

      Hi Jim – good to hear from you!

      It’s more a case of me being anti either Spurs or West Ham moving in than being pro Orient moving in, for the very reason you give. Earlier there was talk of Hearn wanting to move into the hockey stadium – do you know if that is still on a more hidden agenda?

      • Jim Webber said

        The hockey stadium idea is/was quite amazing — first complain that West Ham are moving too close to Os territory, then announce that you’d like to move even closer by taking over the hockey stadium! I do think the hockey venue may be a more viable option as the Olympic stadium itself is far too large in every respect. I fear the Olympic stadium itself will be a true white elephant.

        Although I’m sure Hearn lusts after developing the Brisbane Road site for housing, I’m pretty sure that the agreement with Waltham Forest council requires it to be used for sporting purposes — not necessarily football — for a very long period. Not sure how he’d wriggle out of that, though I dare say a big slug of social housing in any proposed development would go a long way.

  2. 2012 olympic dates…

    […]Stadium developments (and redevelopments) « Football Management[…]…

  3. Ian Ditchfield said

    I’m not sure that West Ham moving to the Olympic Stadium would actually be bad for Orient.

    Orient are already very close to West Ham (and Spurs), so I think people choosing to support Orient are already looking for something different that their bigger neighbours don’t offer.

    West Ham at a half-empty stadium with a running track around it would increase the differentiation; Orient would offer a better view and a better atmosphere.

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