What to do when your team wants to leave town…

by admin

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Spurs move to the new Olympic Stadium has been called “horrendous”, not just for the fans who would see their beloved North London club dug up and shoved East, but for the legacy of the 2012 games.

Firstly, Athletics never has and never will be a high foot-fall spectator sport. If you want to leave a legacy, leave a statue behind, not a barely-used running track that won’t make any money (See footnote below).

Secondly, Spurs moving to the right-hand side of London would be a disaster for the fans but nothing surprises me in football, which, as we’re all becoming increasingly aware, is a business.┬áJust ask Wimbledon… Sorry, MK Dons fans.

When you choose a football club, you choose that club for life and in doing so you adopt a unique identity that is brandished every time your team takes to the field.

Spurs fans will be wondering what is going to happen to their uniqueness if they are up-rooted and plonked straight into the East-end of London, which they’ll feel belongs to West Ham (Millwall might have something to say about that). A football club is part of the local community and the mixture of fans, for years, has been controlled by those living in close proximity.

That, whichever club you are, is a fundamental problem that needs addressing and resolving head-on, not swept under the carpet to be dealt with at a later date.

Looking at London clubs in the Championship, QPR have had almost 20 grounds they’ve called home over the years (including a “plastic” pitch) but that doesn’t mean that R’s fans are any less passionate. Crystal Palace fans probably don’t care where their team play right now, as long as they stay up.

Maybe you think it’s a London thing? Then consider this. Manchester and Liverpool are about 30 miles apart. Try re-locating either of those into the oppositions patch…

So imagine your club has just announced on their website that they’re planning to sell up and change their postcode. Here’s what you can do when your club wants to leave town:

1) Protest. Non-violently and legally but make your voice. Do not go quietly into the night. Get scarves, banners, Facebook pages and make your voice heard. Your opinion matters.

2) Start up your own club. Not impossible but unless you just saw your numbers come up on the National Lottery, you’ll need to start from the bottom. Or have friends in high places.

3) Love your club anyway. Owners will come and go and a building is just bricks and mortar. It’s the fans who are really a football club.

There is one particular case study that supports a football club replacing an Athletics stadium as a viable business option (apart from Manchester City, whose current stadium is the former site of the 2002 Commonwealth Games).

Back in the 90s, Swansea City FC needed a new ground as Vetch Field was no longer up to scratch. The local council identified a patch of land that both the local football and Rugby club could effectively ground-share and, in 2005, both clubs moved into the brand new Liberty Stadium. Interestingly, this meant the bull-dozing of the Morfa stadium, a local athletics track. The existing residents were promised a new, and less dilapidated home, through funding from Sportlot.

Although the Olympic Stadium is in the Capital, without significant investment from football and financial support from the most passionate sporting fans in the world, you would think it runs the risk of becoming moss-covered and derelict within years or, even worse, an “entertainment venue” for lovers of Nando’s and Bon Jovi.

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