A stadium is more than just the setting for 90 minutes of football every 2 weeks. Indeed, for many towns and cities, it's the focal point of their whole community and in some cases their lives. In some cases, the stadiums stand out above the rest of the local skyline and that's certainly the case at the stadiums that still use the old traditional floodlight pylons.
It's fair to say that over the past 20 years we've seen a huge change in the way football clubs are run. We've gone from stadiums crammed in amongst the local houses, to big complexes on the outskirts of the city. There's plenty of positives for doing this such as selling the town centre plot for housing at a vastly higher rate than the land you buy away from the town, more space, more opportunities, upgraded facilities etc. But, we're moving away from what we've all known a football day out to be. The walk through the town following the floodlights to the stadium is being replaced by park and ride schemes and for many, this just isn't the same.
You want examples? I give you examples...
I'm going to name names and point out certain clubs where this, in my view, has had a detrimental effect. The fans of these clubs are always promised the world. Told that this move will take the club to the next level and that the current ground is crippling the club and holding them back. Sold a dream that unfortunately rarely seems to become reality.
Let's start with West Ham. The perfect example. The Boleyn Ground was widely considered to be one of the most atmospheric stadiums in the Premier League. High praise. Their fans were told the move to the London Stadium in Stratford was going to move the club on to the next phase with promises of pushing for European Football. So far, all that's happened is that fan's have been treated to a stadium that simply not fit for purpose. It's not a football stadium and in some areas you're so far away from the pitch that you could do with a little pair of binoculars you used to see at London theatre's..
Looking at other stadium's that have been built since the mid 90's, it's not tough to see the pattern. The point that I'm trying to make. Coventry moved from Highfield Road, an all seated stadium that home and away fans loved. Sold a dream. Moved to the Ricoh Arena. Now look. They've gone down through the leagues and spent 3 season's playing in other team's home grounds due to falling out with the stadium owners. Elsewhere, Darlington moved from Feethams in the town centre to a 30,000 seater stadium on an industrial estate. Within a couple of season's the club had gone bust. Oxford, Colchester, Middlesbrough, Chesterfield, all examples of white elephants away from the town centre that have done nothing for the club. Most don't have enough car parking for fans trying to attend the game so you're forced into the town centre to park and get a bus to the game.
Another issue for the out-of-town grounds is that the town’s football club helps to attract people to that area. There are a number of places in England, Scotland and Wales that I've been to, that I would never have visited if it wasn’t for a game I was going to. It's a chance for the local businesses, pubs, restaurants and attractions to benefit from an influx of day tourists. That is simply taken away if the ground is located next to a junction off a motorway, with the only chance for a drink being the bar in a casino or a 4 pack of cans from the industrial estate's supermarket whilst you check out this betting site. There does seem to be a move back to the original style of ground however, close to the amenities, and the town and city that actually gave the club it's name in the first place.
It's significant to see the more recent moves from club's to try to stay within the local community when they move their home ground. Spurs rebuilt White Hart Lane on the original site and I think we can all agree that they've done an unbelievable job. Brentford's new build is almost a stones throw from Griffin Park and it's wonderful to see Wimbledon moving back to Plough Lane after all these years. A community that lost it's club will be reunited.
We can only hope that this is trend of reversing the one of recent years continues. A day at the football is so much more than just the ninety minutes of play. It's about the whole day. The town, the pubs, the restaurants, exploring and making memories. How many memories are we taking away from motorway edged industrial estates? Not many good one's that's for sure.