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					                                                                     Sean Wozencroft


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

Athletics stadium.



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


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                                                                     Sean Wozencroft


build four miles away on eight acres of agricultural land in an area of outstanding

beauty.



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

a loser.



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.




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                                                                      Sean Wozencroft


“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


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                                                                      Sean Wozencroft


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

powerful.


"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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                   Sean Wozencroft


Word count: 1021




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