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A Pipe Dream?
A Pipe Dream?

New Stadium? Forget It!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 31/05/2005

HARDLY a week goes by before someone somewhere raises the question about Grimsby Town's new stadium, which is really just a proposal and exists only on a bit of paper which someone pulls out the drawer and dusts every so often.

Although a great deal of preparation work has been done, the stadium is no nearer than it was when the late Bill Carr revealed the club's plans for a stadium at Great Coates.

So what are our chances to see the plans reach fruition?

But before we even look at that question, a more important one needs answering.

Do we need a new stadium? Before everyone shouts a loud 'yes' to that, we have to look at the current situation.

Blundell Park needs either replacing or renovating. Town are in the bottom division of the league and have a massive tax bill to fulfil which will take most of the club's resources leaving little to expend on players. Russell Slade has been given an allocation of cash to enable him to secure the players he needs for next season.

But, as I pointed out in another article, he will not be signing the cream of Britain. He will be signing players (and borrowing a few) he feels will manage in the fourth division with the hope that they can gain us a playoff place or better.

That is the situation we face on the playing side.

So where does a new stadium fit into all this.

First of all, forget other financial contributors such as a developer, or major retailer and let us look only at the club's contribution. When the plans were first announced it was estimated that the club would have to inject around four million as their part of the costs. That four million does not include what can be gained from the Football Trust in grants.

It is cold hard cash, which Town will need to raise through fundraising activities and sponsorships. You can forget the Conoco sponsorship as that will already have been eaten away by time because by this time the club's contribution will need to be in excess of 5 million due to the rise in costs since the stadium was first thought of.

There has been some suggestion that the club could borrow the money to be repaid by the income from increased attendances that the stadium will bring.

That is partially true. Clubs who have built new stadiums have averaged out with an increase of around 47% in attendance figures. But one has to take into account that some of those clubs were already playing to packed houses and had to increase their capacity.

So Grimsby Town, if they built the new stadium at the suggested minimum capacity of 14,500, could expect to see crowds of less than 8,000 at the very best taking into account an increase of 47%.

I would go a step further and suggest that the new stadium would probably be almost full - In the beginning. But given a few bad results and knowing the Grimsby community, we would be back to where we are today and that wouldn't take much time at all.

But, of course, If Town were in a higher division and doing well, we could expect fairly good crowds and that would help to pay the costs of the borrowings and that would be a good reason for the club to take a risk on massive loans.

But that too poses another problem. If the club are paying off massive loans for the new stadium, where is the money going to come from to start and continue the success of the team with new buyings, transfers, loans etc? Particularly if we are in a higher division where the players are much more expensive.

Work it out for yourself.

We are looking at the very least a six million input from the club. A club that cannot afford to pay off a 740 thousand debt in one hit, and a club that needs community support to pay it off in instalments.

So where is this money going to come from?

You and me? The NE Lincs Council?

No way! The 'Keep The Mariners Afloat' campaign clearly indicates the level of support the community is prepared to offer the club.

I know that some will say the tax bill is one thing and the stadium is another, and they are right. But no one in their right mind would suggest the community would be involved in supporting to the tune of a million pounds. And that is what would be needed. Minimum.

But there is a solution. It is long term but in my opinion, it is better than the pipe dream we are having at the moment.

GTFC should forget about the new stadium until they have managed to drag an unsuspecting millionaire into the fold.

They would be better off, once the tax bill is paid, to borrow money to improve Blundell Park the best way they can until we are in a higher division, financially stable and enjoying success on the field. Because that success is the key to everything else.

You can spend 50 million on a new stadium but unless you have got a team that is consistently successful, the income will dry up and you will be left with a financial disaster.

In fact, the answer to all Town's problems lies on the football field and the more money that goes into that area, the better chance we have of getting everything else we wish for, including a new stadium.

But unless that happens, why would we need a new stadium? The faithful 4-5,000 will continue to drudge along to old BP, happy in their misery of being a Town fan, dreaming of the first division and Wembley until they die, and the youngsters in the town chasing Chelsea, Arsenal or any other club that offers them glory.

And before you say I am wrong, let me tell you I have been a Town supporter for over 50 years and it has always been that way when we are down. Nobody moves faster than town fans, when the chips are down. You only have to look at last season and the reaction of those "who will never visit BP again!"

New stadium? You must be joking!

Let us first get the Mariners afloat, achieve some success and then start dreaming of a new stadium.

Do not let us put the cart before the horse however attractive it looks.

Note: If you think I am wrong, and I wish to high Heaven I was. Please tell me where I am wrong. Tell me the magic formula to Town getting a new stadium. Tell me where the money will come from and tell me when we will have a consistently successful team that we will need to sustain it. Either submit an article HERE or speak your piece on the message board.

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