An update from the Chief Executive
In Saturday's match day programme, Erik Samuelson reported on some rather disappointing news about plans to include a standing terrace in the new stadium.
This article is reproduced in full below.
Last week a small group of us visited Rotherham United’s new ground, the New York Stadium, to identify what has worked well there and what, on reflection, they might have done differently. I’ve always found other clubs to be incredibly open and helpful about sharing ideas and experiences. Rotherham certainly were, and we learned a lot that will be reflected in the detailed design of our planned new stadium.
On another front, we recently received some disappointing, but not unexpected, news about grants for the new stadium from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FISF). Since we entered the Football League in 2011 we have received grants of £550,000 for work on the control room and the new John Green Stand. There is a limit of £750,000 on the total amount of grants available to League clubs, so there is a further £200,000 we can apply for. But, importantly, grants are not available for standing terraces.
Strictly speaking, all grants – in our case the £550,000 plus a further £220,000 awarded before we entered the League – are repayable if a club sells its current stadium. In the light of this I wrote to the Football Stadia Improvement Fund to ask two questions: first, in principle, can we transfer existing grants to the new stadium; and second, would it affect their view if the new stadium included a standing terrace?
The answer to the first question was that the FSIF would be happy to consider a formal application to transfer the existing grants (which we take to mean that it is possible in principle), but that the transfer of an existing grant, or an application for a new grant, would require all spectator areas of the new stadium to be designed with covered seated accommodation. In short, if we include a standing terrace in the new stadium then we must repay the £770,000 and we’d forego £200,000 of potential new grants. So the net effect is to add nearly £1 million to the cost of the new stadium.
I’m not surprised by this response. The FSIF is simply implementing policies which are not of its making and which reflect the status of terrace accommodation following the Taylor Report some years ago. So there is no other answer that might have given to us, and until the government changes the law about seating in football stadiums I see no chance of progress in the timescales for a new stadium.
So we have a simple decision to make. Do we build a standing terrace at an incremental cost of just under £1 million? While I’d love to be able to say we’ve got £1 million available to do this, right now the key focus is on keeping the overall cost affordable. What we can do is look at designing a seated area that is capable of being converted into a terrace if and when the rules change, but in reality I think we have little choice in this matter: our new stadium will be all-seated. To pre-empt an obvious question, while the status of rail seating (often referred to as safe standing) is a little unclear, it does not currently qualify as seated accommodation, so that is no help to us at present.
This is disappointing and frustrating – but, I stress, I don’t think the FSIF had any choice in the matter. Meanwhile we continue to work on the detailed design, identifying new issues to be resolved, in response to which our team are coming up with clever solutions.
Finally, thank you to everyone who sponsored runners in the recent Minithon, and particularly those of you who sponsored me. I completed the course along with about 150 other fans and boys from the Academy. The day was an overwhelming success and a credit to the club. Many thanks to everyone who made it happen, and particularly to Jeremy Sauer, head of the Academy, and my wife, Eileen, who were the driving forces behind the day. I am already in training to better my time next year!