We today publish an update from Chief Executive, Erik Samuelson, on redeveloping the East Stand for those supporters who missed it in the Bristol Rovers matchday programme.
When the sports ground safety authority delivered their assessment of the east stand earlier this year, the club seemed to be facing a costly redevelopment. But, as Erik Samuelson is happy to report, there may now be a cheaper option.
Recently we met with the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) to discuss their expectations and requirements for the East Stand. Previously, I have talked about how they wanted us to redevelop the stand. We spent some time coming up with different ideas for the stand, none of which were very satisfactory. The problem lies with the “C factors” – which sound a bit technical, but are just measures of how easy it is to see the pitch over the people in front of you.
We looked at an all-seater stand and a terrace as possible solutions. Both have their problems. If we were to build a new terrace, then to achieve the sight lines to comply with the stipulated C factors we might well have to narrow the pitch (which is unacceptable, as we already have one of the smallest pitches in League 2) or construct an equivalent of what I usually refer to as “the moat” – the sunken walkway at the front of the Tempest End. This would allow fans to be sufficiently far from the pitch to improve their view, and would solve the problem of fans walking along the front and impairing the view of others. But using up precious space to dig another moat would give very little increase in capacity, and the excavations would be very expensive.
So we also looked at an all-seater stand. Oddly, we would be able to build an all-seater stand closer to the edge of the pitch – an unexpected (for me, anyway) consequence of the C factors. Seats obviously take up more space than terrace places, so to keep the new capacity at an acceptable level we would have to build the stand all the way back to the access road that runs behind the stadium on that side. This could entail a full planning application as well as the greater expense that comes with building seats rather than terraces. But we couldn’t see how we could build an entirely new all-seater stand during a close season, leaving us with the almost insurmountable problem of accommodating displaced fans elsewhere in the ground for at least part of the season.
Faced with these difficulties, we asked to meet the SGSA representative to discuss the pros and cons of our options, and also to explore the necessary timescales in view of the fact that we hope to be moving to a new stadium in the foreseeable future.
The SGSA have proved to be very helpful and constructive in their approach. First we looked at the C factors. If the rake of a terrace falls short of what is needed and the view isn’t acceptable, then there is deemed to be a safety risk because fans will try to move around to get a better view, and when the terrace is packed, this compromises spectator safety. There is also a “customer service” (not my term – we’re fans, not customers) aspect of C factors, because if the view isn’t very good it puts people off coming to games.
We are awaiting formal feedback from the SGSA, but I hope they will agree that rather than us rebuilding the East Stand completely, we might deal with the issues through a combination of reducing the capacity a little, so that fans can move around to improve their view, and improvements to other safety aspects of the stand. This isn’t finally resolved yet, and I may be jumping the gun in telling you this, but it is why we’ve gone silent on the issue of fundraising to build a new East Stand – we are very much hoping we won’t need to do so.
That still leaves the “customer service” aspects of the stand, as we know that the view isn’t good. Once we have a final word from the SGSA we can turn our attention to that and see whether there are any less expensive solutions that might help. I’ll keep you informed as things develop.