Football League by 2025: St Albans City's grand hopes following launch of stadium plans
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 06:23 29 March 2018
An ambitious stadium move for St Albans City have been matched by an ambitious target by co-owner Lawrence Levy – reaching the Football League by 2025.
The club have released plans for a 6,000 capacity stadium which they hope will receive planning permission from St Albans District Council.
But if the Noke Lane Community Stadium is given the green light, then Levy believes it could take Saints into the professional ranks.
He said: “I’ve always believed that the [level of] football a club has is a result of its infrastructure and its ability to develop off the pitch.
“That can then feed in to what happens on the pitch.
“There is evidence that suggests that modern, successful football clubs are able to build sustainable and aspirational futures and our evidence is Burton Albion and AFC Fylde.
“We met with Fylde, spoke to the owner/chairman, the chief executive and the head of the community trust as well as a number of staff about their feelings of working for that organisation.
“They’re more or less a village club but their evidence is that their crowds went up five times in the new stadium and the income they put back into the community has grown exponentially.
“I’m not suggesting ours will because we don’t know but we’re a much larger catchment area than Fylde.
“So if we follow these models in the business plan, evidence suggests we could deliver on a scale that might be larger than what they’re delivering.
“And they’ve been promoted already. They are now in the National League and are touching on the Football League.
“Their proposal was 2022 but they could be in the Football League in 2019 or 2020, two years ahead of schedule. What we’re setting is a realistic expectation of 2025.”
Levy revealed that the plans allow for expansion as well should reality exceed expectations.
He said: “We are future-proofing the ground. It will be a 6,000 capacity with 2,500 seats, covered terraces and concessions throughout, with hospitality to match some of the best.
“But the one thing we are doing is planning it with room around it so we can extend and expand the terraces into all-seater stands.
“Subject to planning we could expand the ground.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s been tough but John [McGowan] and I are resolute in delivering this to the city.”
One aspect of City’s aim of reaching the Football League would be the change from a semi-professional outfit to a full-time professional squad.
And Levy thinks that should the plans be approved, that could happen sooner rather than later.
“We would need to find a way of raising the funds which is why we would need to be in a position to be able to fund a full-time playing squad. We’re not in that position at the moment.
“We’re in a tricky situation as a football club but if we get planning we can probably find a way of investing in the team by getting sponsorship in from people who will know they will be backing something that is going to be out of this world later on.
“We would look at funding mechanisms if we go up but the thing is we can’t afford to be part-time at the moment.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something that is going to be incredible.”
And the co-owner moved quickly to allay fears that the development could leave St Albans in a similar position to that currently faced by Dulwich Hamlet.
“The deal we are doing with the landowner developer, CWC, means within 10 years the club will own the freehold of the stadium,” he said.
“We will lease it from them for a period of up to 10 years whilst they develop the rest of the site. Then at a certain moment we will be able to purchase the freehold of the stadium and the training pitches for a nominal sum.
“The idea is they are gifting it to us but they want to make sure we don’t start building other seats and stands while they’re in the middle of building the rest of the development. We’ve agreed to that and that is actually fair enough.”