AFTER years of false dawns, it seems as though Cardiff City Football Club’s plans for
a new £100m stadium and retail park are nearing reality.
Cardiff council recently extended the deadline for the signing of the development
agreement to September 30 and ensured the club and supporters that things are
moving in the right direction. Work should be able to start in the autumn.
Countless start dates have been announced only for another hurdle to appear, so
perhaps it is no surprise that many of the Cardiff supporters will remain sceptical
until the bulldozers have arrived onsite, but with the revised business plan in the
hands of the council, pessimism is slowly giving way to optimism.
Many clubs have run upon problems with plans to
build new stadia in recent years, not least Brighton
and Hove Albion. The Seagulls have been looking to
A waterlogged Withdean build a new home since playing their last game at the
old Goldstone Ground in 1997. Nine years on and
they are still campaigning for the go ahead to start construction on a start of the art
22,000 all-seater arena in Falmer. They are currently playing at the Withdean
With a capacity of just 7,000, a pitch comparable to a beach and scaffholding stands
some ten metres from the action, it is no place for a club the size of Brighton to be
playing their football.
The club’s location means there is no ideal site for a stadium in Brighton and Hove,
which is trapped between the sea and the Downs. Consequently, they are looking to
build four miles away on eight acres of agricultural land in an area of outstanding
Somewhat unsurprisingly, these proposals came up against fierce opposition from
Falmer residents, the local parish council and environmentalists and the debate
rumbles on. Eventually, be it next month or in five years, there will be a winner and
The situation at Cardiff, however, is more complicated. The land which the club plans
to develop, less than 100 metres from their current Ninian Park home, is currently
occupied by an athletics stadium which has seen better days. In order the obtain this
land from the council, the club has agreed to build a new athletics complex on a
nearby area of greenland. This space is occasionally illegally used by travellers but
not a lot else.
The primary problem lies not
with the application to build a
30,000 capacity stadium which
will be fit for the Premiership but
with the club’s plans to Proposed new stadium
independently finance the project through retail outlets and hotels next door.
Initially it was reported that there could be no food outlets on the site, but this has
since been overturned, angering local shopkeepers who believe that the yet more out
of town shops will steer people away from their own trade.
“We are only a small shop but we serve this community with a variety of food,” said
Prashant Patel, owner of a family run shop nearby.
“We already have enough competition from the city centre. These sort of
developments do nothing to help honest, hard-working men like myself.
“This is ignoring the congestion that it will inevitably cause around the area. There
will be plenty of protests against these proposals, from myself included.”
It took the club over a year to find its first tenant, but eventually American
wholesealer giants Costco signed up and ASDA put pen to paper shortly after.
135,000 square ft will be taken by Costco, 92,000 square ft by ASDA. This meant
that over half of the retail space was pre-let and, it was announced, work could
commence almost immediately.
Sadly for the club, as has been the case for other clubs battling for a new stadium,
things are not that simple.
The council are currently scrutinising the club’s business plan to decide whether or
not the project is financially viable. This is made more difficult by the fact that some
of the club’s major backers have allegedly signed a contract of anonymity.
This project is still continuing to move in the right direction,” ensured Council chief
executive Byron Davies. “But the Council must make sure that it is completely
satisfied about the viability of the stadium project.
“On this basis the [development agreement] deadline has been extended to allow us
to work with the Club and get the additional financial information we need. Both
Cardiff Council and CCFC remain fully committed to delivering a stadium and this
extension shows how positively this complex project is moving forward.”
Of course, any development of this scale involves some financial risks, but more so
when it involves a football club. The retail space, providing it is all occupied, will
bring in regular income, but other revenue such as gate takings and hotel bookings
will be directly affected by the club’s performance on the pitch. As a result, these
figures have to be estimated. The council remains cautious with the knowledge that
should the plans fail it could be disastrous for the club and real problem for them.
Cardiff City chief shareholder Sam Hammam explained: "There are a few hundred
thousand square feet within the bowels of the stadium which will be generating
income for the club, because we own the stadium.
"It will be somewhere between three and six million pounds a year and that will
remain the legacy for the future of this club.
"So you can imagine, before we kick a ball, that's the sort of money that we can
generate from non football activity. That means that the club will always be
"But initially we have to build the stadium and there will be borrowings that need to
be done. We have made a deal with financial institutions and with other banks which
are in place and part of our business plan.”
For the supporters who have read the headline “Stadium Given Green Light” on the
backpages of the local rag at least four times since the birth of the millennium, work
cannot start quickly enough.
All being well, the 2008/09 season will be the start of a new dawn for Cardiff City.
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