Fans and supporters react to Saints football stadium plans

St Albans City FC co-owner Lawrence Levy and CWC Group director Robert Hepwood present the plans for

St Albans City FC co-owner Lawrence Levy and CWC Group director Robert Hepwood present the plans for a new Saints stadium to St Albans Chamber of Commerce. - Credit: Archant

St Albans City FC’s ambitious plans for a new stadium have met with positive feedback from the local community.

Paralympian David Clarke said: “As somebody who has fought hard to open up the football pathways to everyone in society and being heavily involved in local youth football through Harpenden Colts, I am all too aware of the incredible benefits that a strong and sustainable community football club can have on the lives of young people and what benefits it can bring to the wider community.

“I applaud the ambition and scope of this project which will bring with it huge economic benefits for the city in district whilst meeting the needs of everyone. This model has been deployed successfully by numerous football clubs throughout the UK where job creation, inclusion, increase in visitor numbers, reduction in crime and antisocial behaviour alongside sustained economic growth are just some of the benefits for which there is a strong body of evidence.”

Lee Wood, chairman of Stand By Your Saints supporters group, said: “The excitement of this announcement is incredible. As fans we have waited for what seems forever and this would be a dream come true.

“This vision is something we have waited for so long and as fans we are ready to lift the roof of a new stadium – this would be a dream come true. Until then, we’ll be at Clarence Park supporting with passion and pride. It’s a huge forward step for the club.

“We’ve had speculation and rumours for years but finally we have something to get excited about. City’s fans are renowned for passion and pride and a new stadium is a fantastic signal of the club’s intentions for success on and off the pitch. With the promotion push, the passion of the fans is at fever pitch and we can’t wait for more information.”

Eddie Mills, founder of the Oli Mills Foundation, a charity which works to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “St Albans City FC has been a great supporter of the Oli Mills Foundation. The exclusive home of Verulam School’s ‘Mills Match’ and various fundraising activities, the club has helped us raise over £43,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust to date. The move to a new ground would see our partnership continue to flourish as we look to provide hope to teenagers with cancer across the UK.”

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St Albans Chamber of Commerce vice president Pat Strods, a partner with Rayner Essex LLP, said: ”This is an incredible opportunity for the future sustainability of the football club, ensuring it is not dependent on the goodwill of others, as well as boosting the local economy from increasing numbers of regular visitors to the city creating more jobs both at the football club and local businesses.”

Ian Rogers from St Albans City Supporters Trust added: “The news that a submission has been made to build a new ground along with an enabling development of houses at Chiswell Green adjacent to the M25, is probably of no surprise to supporters. The owners have for a number of years made clear their intentions to provide a ground that facilitates more than just one or two matches a fortnight, something that is not achievable at Clarence Park due to the limited space and restrictive covenant on the location.

“The Supporters Trust circulated a survey to members when a site was proposed at Colney Heath Lane in 2013. There was no overall consensus regarding the move. We will again be canvassing all supporters on their views on the proposed new site.

“For many years now the football club has been seeking to relocate from Clarence Park and the efforts of the current owners have gone a long way down to meeting this objective compared to any previous attempts. The ground will include facilities for conferences/banqueting and other uses which would bring in much needed non-match day revenue and hopefully make the club financially sustainable without the current annual cash injection from the owners.

“Speaking personally, I cannot see any way that the club can be a self-financing organisation by remaining at the current location, where anything up to £100k shortfall occurs each season. As a supporter and volunteer at the club I see each match day the shortcoming at Clarence Park in terms of parking, accessibility, facilities for supporters and a crumbling infrastructure

“That said, I will be looking for certain conditions to be in place to protect the proposed new ground for use as a sports facility for the whole of its life.

“This proposed move will certainly not meet with universal support from everyone given the location and the additional travel distance to matches. We as a Supporters Trust will review what is proposed and the business plan that backs it up just as we did with the 2013 site and raise issues from supporters with the owners.”