The Capital One Arena

Over the
last week, there had been mounting speculation that Nottingham Forest were due
to make an important announcement this Wednesday. The speculation had centered
around a few main theories. The general consensus of opinion had it that Forest
were about to announce either a new signing (possibly someone from the ongoing
European Under-21 Championships); that Kris Commons had signed a new contract
(or possibly decided to move elsewhere); that Nathan Tyson wanted to leave; or
that the City Ground was to be expanded or replaced. Most fans seemed to agree
that it would be the announcement of a new signing, and I concurred. In fact, I
went as far as to say that I thought so, as the following excerpt from a
discussion on an online forum will no doubt illustrate:

“The
City Ground is unique, and very special to me even though I don’t get to visit
it very often. How many other stadia have a wavy roof on one stand?

Also, why would we waste money on a new ground when we can barely fill the
current one? Unless ND [Nigel Doughty] is downsizing the club, and is intending
to build a 12,000-seater lower-league ground to match our league position.

IF there is any major announcement to be made tomorrow, it will be a signing or
a departure. I fail to see how it can be anything else.”

However,
my judgement (and, in
my defence, common sense) proved incorrect: Forest announced plans for a new
stadium.  But how was I to guess that?
After all, Forest are stuck in League One, and often struggle to fill their
current 30,602-seater stadium, so why on earth would they spend money either
expanding their current home, or building a new one? And if they were to build
a new one, it would only make sense provided they increased the capacity
significantly. Therefore, the announcement of a 40-50,000-seater stadium, to be
purpose built in Clifton, one of the suburbs of Nottingham, came as quite a
surprise. However, closer examination of the details made matters clearer.

The new
stadium will not be ready until 2014, by which time Forest hope to be back in
the promised land of the Premier League. In recent years, it was accepted that
should Forest secure promotion to the Premiership the chairman, Nigel Doughty,
would invest in the expansion of the Main Stand, and raise the capacity to
around 40,000. So why, a couple of years later, should the club decide that
relocation, not expansion, is the way forward? One of the reasons quoted today
was the prohibitive cost of redevelopment. Also, there is the issue of the
local residents; given that the current ground has a wavy roof (one end of the
Bridgeford Stand is lower than the other) in order to allow sunlight into the
houses behind and placate the residents of the nearby houses, it is by no means
guaranteed that they would be at all happy with the ground getting even bigger.
In fact, given the restrictions on the height of the Bridgeford Stand, it is
logical to suggest that had Forest wished to expand their current ground, they
could only do this by increasing the height of the Main Stand (though
increasing the height would mean increasing the depth, and this would cause the
club to lose a lot of their club car park which is situated behind the Main
Stand), and/or the Trent End (not much room for expansion here, or the stand
would be built on water), or the Brian Clough Stand (again, not much room for
expansion without encroaching on someone else’s land). It’s pretty clear that
the club couldn’t expand the current ground without buying up more land around
the site. Given that these are residential areas near the city centre, in the
middle of a house-price boom, and they would need to buy hundreds of houses
whose residents might need to be paid over the odds in order to guarantee a
deal, it quickly becomes obvious that even a minor expansion would be very
expensive, and so moving is the only option.

Also, it
is rumoured that England will be making a bid to host either the 2018 or 2022
World Cup, and so Forest would be hoping to cash in on this by hosting some of
the matches at their (by then relatively) new stadium. This could also explain
how a team of Forest’s lowly status has managed to secure private sector
financing for a stadium which could cost in excess of £50m. After all, with the
World Cup coverage increasing every tournament, what better way to advertise
your brand than invest a few million pounds, and then make sure that your
reward is prime advertising space at the new stadium so that your logo is
broadcast around the globe several times a minute for the better part of two
hours? Better still would be to secure the naming rights to the new stadium
(which is more than likely to happen, hence the name of this piece), so every
time a fixture –or more precisely, the venue of said fixture – is mentioned, so
is your company name.

As for
the stadium itself, it will be built with environmentally friendly materials,
and will be ‘carbon-neutral’. Given that part of the funding is from the public
sector (I’m assuming this means the local council), they will almost certainly
want to be associated with a stadium as green as this. Given that both the
building of the new stadium and the associated businesses which will
undoubtedly spring up in the vicinity will provide employment opportunities for
hundreds if not thousands of people, it is unsurprising that the local council
would wish to be associated with the project.

Nigel
Doughty is often criticized for what the fans perceive as a lack of ambition,
and his insistence that the club should slowly work its way out of the problems
caused by the collapse of ITV Digital, and David Platt’s wild spending, instead
of digging deep into his own pockets to wipe out the debt and fund an all-out
assault on the division in order to get back to the Premier League as quickly
as possible. However, this announcement can only be interpreted as a sign of
great ambition. In making these plans, and publicising them, he is essentially
setting deadlines and establishing the aims of the club for all to see: Forest
will be a Premier League club by 2014, and he wants them playing Premiership
football in what will be one of the best stadia in the country. How’s that for
ambition?

All in all, this seems to be an
uncharacteristically positive move by Forest. For once, there is a clear
long-term plan in place, and the details of it are known to the fans, rather
than hushed up lest an opponent should get wind of the strategy and throw a
spanner in the works (or, as the conspiracy theorists would have you believe,
hushed up because actually, there is no plan). There seem to be definite aims
and certain assurances have been made to the fans, namely that the budget for
the playing side of things will not be affected by the plans for a new stadium.
After years of underachievement and disappointment which the board seemed to
tolerate if not encourage, it seems that the club is once again as hungry for
success as the fans.

 

 

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