Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Is the grass always greener?!

Hearing that Liverpool are considering redeveloping Anfield in favour of a move to a brand new stadium in Stanley Park really made me think back to a time when that, was almost us!!

11 years ago seems like the ancient past now, we were in the ‘Barclaycard Premiership’, David O’Leary was manager (until the end of the season, anyway), Peter Ridsdale, the Chairman and our average attendance was 39,460. Life was very different.
In September 2001 Peter Ridsdale confirmed that due to a majority vote, by the Leeds United fans, we would be leaving Elland Road for a new 50,000 seater stadium in Skelton, just off the A1(M).
From the 28,250 forms that were sent out to Season Ticket Holders, 18,577 were received back, 16,276 (87.6%) were FOR the new stadium to be built.
The other option was to redevelop Elland Road.

Ridsdale was hoping that from this, we would become a force not only in English football but also in Europe and become one of the greatest football teams in the world. The new stadium would attract big sponsors, big players and it sounded, for us, like the dream ticket we’d always wanted.
Should all have gone to plan, the ground would have been opened in 2004.
Let’s skip forward shall we, to season 2003/4, we were in around £100m worth of debt. Manger Peter Reid was sacked in November and succeeded by Eddie Gray, who was appointed as temporary manager.
We were relegated to The Championship after a 4 – 1 loss to Bolton and we seemed to be in a LOT of trouble.

Going back to 2001/2 now though, the plans for the new ground of course fell through in 2002. The plan was, that a sponsor would pay the majority of money for the £50m stadium to be built and would therefore have the naming rights, but that was the problem, there were no sponsors willing to pump that kind of money into our club. It also emerged that for the six months ending in December 2001, we were making an operating loss, before player trading of around £2.4m, bearing in mind we had made £6.2m profit the same period just a year before.

Now I was 11 when all this was going on so too young to have a proper input in whether I wanted to stay at Elland Road or not, but now, I am VERY sentimental and would probably cry bucketsif we were to ever leave it!!
I ama sucker for grounds with character, grounds that you never get bored of visiting, for me, ours is one of those, so is Anfield.

You can understand the need for some teams to move, some clubs grounds are simply too old now and as the game modernises, the facilities have to too. Some don't meet health and safety regulations anymore, so for the money they would spend bringing it up to scratch they could build a new one and hopefully start building a new future to better the club as a whole. Some clubs outgrow their stadium and are left with very little choice but to leave, like Arsenal when they left Highbury, they were close to capacity every home game and as it was surrounded by residential properties, it would have been close to impossible to redevelop, their only other option was to build a new state of the art stadium to replace Highbury.

You can understand the need for some teams to move, some grounds are simply too old now and as the game modernises, the facilities have to too. Some don't meet health & safety regulations any more so for the money & time they would spend bringing it up to scratch, they could build a new one and could plan a new future to better the club as a whole.

In the short term, redeveloping a stadium doesn't seem like the best idea, it is very costly and extremely disruptive but on the flip side you can stay at the place you and your team have called home for many years, a place filled with memories and steeped in history, but the advantages to a shiny new stadium are there too, especially for the money men.
Imagine being Mr Chairman/Ms Chairwoman, entertaining your vast circle of wealthy friends, attracting potential investors, players, sponsors and the like!!

My real problem though with a lot of new stadia these days, is that, they all look exactly the same, St Marys, The Keepmoat, The Walkers, The Madjeski, Cardiff City Stadium, Pride Park to name but a few they are all what I call 'Flat Pack' or 'Ikea' Stadiums....Soulless bowls, I'm no stadium designer and I know they are built like that to keep costings down but, surely, SURELY they must be some way to make these look better than plastic fruit bowls....

MK Dons moved from their old ground The National Hockey Stadium which hadcapacity for 4,000 all seated (9,000 with extra stands added by MK Dons). They left in 2007 and made Stadium MK their new home. This HAD to be done for the future of their club. Stadium MK is an 'Ikea Stadium' with a difference, the difference being, they not only built the ground for their needs at that time but for the future too.
Currently their capacity of the ground is 22,000 but this can be increased, if needs be, to 45,000 with addition of a third tier!!

Another team that built for the future more recently was Brighton & Hove Albion. If you were one of the 'lucky' ones to ever visit The Withdean....You will know exactly why it was keyto Brighton's future that they had a new ground built as soon as they possibly could. The Withdean was basically an athletics stadium with a football pitch placed in the middle....You were lucky if you could see any of the match from the 'away stand' as it was so far away!! Most of the seating was temporary and there was no cover so you had to hope it was going to be a nice day!!
The Falmers (AKA: The American Express Community Stadium) was opened in July last year and currently holds 27,350. Like MK Dons the stadium was built in such a way that if needs be, they could add more seats with little disruption.
Earlierthis year, they had permission granted from Brighton and Hove City Council to increase the capacity by 8,000 seats as well as additional corporate boxes, new television facilities and a luxury suite. They are doing this in stages, and by the start of the 2013/14 season the ground will hold 30,250 supporters.
Pretty staggering, and really well thought out. The Falmers IS a new stadium I look forward to visiting, it does have character and I like the way it is built, very modern, very nice.

The grounds with character I was talking about, are the ones that have something about them, the ones that clubs have managed to redevelop and not kill any of the atmosphere.
Some of my favourites include, Elland Road (obviously ha ha), Anfield, Goodison Park, Upton Park, Villa Park The City Ground and Stamford Bridge.

I for one, am really glad we stayed at Elland Road and hope we do for many years to come :o)

MOT xx <3 xx

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