THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

2 February ~ "Our City Our Team" is the statement that greets readers logging onto York City’s official website. Sadly it seems inevitable that in the near future these sentiments will no longer be appropriate. After nearly 80 years of calling Bootham Crescent home, a planning application has been submitted to the council that would see City move to a new home three miles out of town, on the site of the Monks Cross shopping centre. Bootham Crescent, situated in the terraced streets of Bootham just a wayward free-kick away from the bustle of the city centre, is no longer wanted by the club’s directors due to its lack of corporate facilities and inability to provide income away from match days.

The proposal to build a new 6,000 capacity stadium to be shared by York City and York City Knights, the rugby league club, is just a small part of a wider expansion plan from the owners of Monks Cross shopping centre (Oakgate Group), which includes plans for Marks & Spencer and John Lewis department stores. The proposed "stadium for York" is merely a sweetener from Oakgate Group to increase the likelihood of their expansion plans being approved.

There is little doubt that the financial case for moving the club is strong. With Bootham Crescent having to be constantly upgraded to keep it fit for purpose, and with a new stadium being capable of bringing in outside income, many fans have reluctantly accepted the need for a move.

The unsettling part is the cost to the club in terms of the alienation of its supporters. Bootham Crescent is established alongside Gothic cathedrals and 11th century castles as one of York’s many landmarks. When the new stadium is given the go-ahead, fans accustomed to making a short walk out of the city walls to the match may resent having to trade their pre-match pub visit for a latte in Asda cafe.

City supporters have been here before and will remember how they nearly left Bootham Crescent nine years ago. Financial struggles made Bootham Crescent's maintenance difficult and in 2003 the club looked set to move out of town to Huntington Stadium, where the Knights play. Happily, a grant was received from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund to renovate Bootham Crescent and York was able to keep its football club in the city.

In 2005 a sponsorship deal was struck with the nearby Nestlé factory and Bootham Crescent was renamed "KitKat Crescent". This deal expired at the end of the 2009-10 season and everyone was pleased to be able to call York’s home Bootham Crescent again. Everyone except Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling that is, who was robbed of his half-time line: "They’re taking a break at the KitKat".

This proposal represents the latest in an increasing number of partnerships between professional sport and development proposals. Doncaster Rovers, Hull City, Colchester United and Cardiff City have all received new stadiums in recent years as part of wider development projects. Each club’s loss of their traditional ground illustrates the high price clubs pay to accommodate corporate guests and maximise outside revenues.

A free stadium courtesy of Oakgate Group in an out-of-town location would undoubtedly be financially beneficial to York City. A decision on the development proposals is to be made by the council in the next few weeks and is likely to gain approval. Once approval is given, York City and its supporters may reflect that the statement "Our City Our Team" is no longer applicable to the football club. The stadium may be free, but its real cost will be paid by disillusioned supporters. Adam Leese

Comments (12)
Comment by Jonny_York 2012-02-02 12:52:00

Good article, represents the sentiments of most fans and great to see some wider exposure, there are a couple of factual errors however.
There was no grant from the FSIF to renovate Bootham Crescent, there was in fact a loan of £2M which allowed the club to buy back the ground (after a former chairman had separated ownership of the ground from the football club and then sought to evict the club and sell the ground -the proceeds of which sale would not have gone to the club). This loan will be turned into a grant only if the club move grounds and builds a new all-seater stadium. The need to move is therefore not driven by running costs and the ubuquitous need to generate 'revenue streams' but by the need to get away from a £2M debt which ultimately stems from the actions of previous regimes.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-02-02 14:26:19

This is currently a hot topic for Lincoln. I used to live in York and can appreciate this move is slightly different from Lincoln whose move would still be roughtly within the city, however it would be moving from the historical home. I think from our point of view most fans will take it because it is the most viable way of keeping the club alive. It is only in this modern era where we seem to hanker for old traditions and hisory plays part of a reason not to do something progressive. The ideal is always to stay put but modern times mean this is not now viable.

Back in the day players were paid a lot less and the game in general was cheaper to run (policing, stewards etc) and so a fortnightly attendance could easily pay for them. Now we have to rely on selling the image rights to EA Sports (in league days) when they have not been mortgaged off as Crystal Palace had done, shirt sales, pen sales, pillow case sales, internet commentary package sales etc. Sadly football has moved on and moves to vacuous and indentikit statiums is the only safe way to guarantee that the mean reason we follow our team, to watch them for 90 minutes amongst friends and like minded people, continues.

Comment by 99leesea 2012-02-02 16:21:10

@Jonny_york

My mistake, I (and quite a few other supporters that I know) was under the impression that this was a grant from the FSIF. Though I think it's largely academic, instead of needing to move stadium due to upkeep costs, the need to move is due to an inability to pay back a loan. Both of these can fall into the wider category of 'financial difficulty' and ultimately it is this which is driving the need to relocate to Monks Cross.

I can't help but think that this move if it happens will ultimately be a bad one for City. I'm sure attendances will fall as a result of this move and cut a lot of York's public off from their football club. Have you heard about the genius suggestion of having shuttle buses from the city centre to the stadium on matchdays which will stop close to supporters' pubs of choice ?

Things seem set to change for City fans.

Comment by donedmundo 2012-02-02 16:23:09

You just need to be careful. Developers are very fond of promising the earth to get approval for their schemes then finding (shock, horror) that delivering what they have promised is 'no longer financially viable'.

Comment by Janik 2012-02-02 18:35:33

"Doncaster Rovers, Hull City, Colchester United and Cardiff City have all received new stadiums in recent years as part of wider development projects. Each club’s loss of their traditional ground illustrates the high price clubs pay to accommodate corporate guests and maximise outside revenues."

Interesting set of examples. I wonder how many of those clubs fans actually considers it a high price?

Comment by JamesChristie 2012-02-02 19:24:59

I was sad to read this. As the article says Bootham Crescent is an easy walk from the city centre. When I lived there I'd always meet my friends before games at the Bootham Tavern, only a couple of hundred yards from the Minster.

Monks Cross is an awful location; a dreary, drab windswept anonymous retail and commercial area that could be just about anywhere in these isles. The existing Rugby League ground has all the charm of the nearby Asda. Are there any pubs within reasonable walking distance. It takes ages for the buses to grind their way out from the city centre. I used to live out the other side of York. It would have taken so long to get to Monks Cross by public transport that midweek games would have been difficult when I was still at school.

I really hope it works out for City, and that the fans will be able to stomach it.

Comment by Grimmer 2012-02-02 20:49:47

Pretty good description of Monks X there. Unfortunately I work there.

I understand the situation with the FSIF loan is the main reason for this but I've always understood that the age old desire to improve revenue streams is something of a factor here. You've got to love the current set up that has the corporate facilities overlooking the car park.

There are no pubs at Monks X at the moment but there has been a story about one of those god awful chain pubs being set up out there (pretty sure I read that planning permission had been given).

I'll miss Bootham and the new ground would be 40 mins walk from town - so that's a pain in the arse. It's all just a bit sad and inevitable really.

Comment by Liffrok 2012-02-02 21:21:22

Horrible walk as well - most York is beautiful, but the inner ring road certainly isn't.

It would be lovely to see Bootham survive, it's the reason that York away is the fixture I most want to see on our fixture list again.

Comment by madmickyf 2012-02-03 03:13:36

Any chance that the 'lovely' Sophie Hicks could be buried under the foundations of the new stadium?

Comment by JamesChristie 2012-02-03 10:29:58

Grimmer "Pretty good description of Monks X there. Unfortunately I work there."

I spent a few months working in York a couple of years ago, and I was constantly dotting too and fro between the Monks Cross office and the city centre. I always seemed to miss the bus back and be left standing freezing at the bus stop contemplating the meaning of life.

I was staying at a nice guest house near Scarborough Bridge, and I was delighted when I found the owner was Barry Lyons, one of City's finest ever players. I'd get the chance to blether about football in the morning when he served me my bacon and eggs.

Comment by Grimmer 2012-02-04 09:35:28

James that sounds so familiar I suspect we may have worked for the same company.

I live 10 mins walk from ScarbOrough Bridge - I suspect that means I'll never get the excuse to stay at Barry's B&B. Shame.

Now do I go to Bootham this afternoon or is it off due to the freezing weather? Always weirdly hard to find out whether FA Trophy games are on.

Comment by JamesChristie 2012-02-04 20:32:01

I was based in Welly Row, altogether more civilised than an industrial estate off the Malton Road. I was just there for a 6 month IT contract. At the end of my time I made my excuses and left.

Barry looked just the same as he did as a player. He always looked a bit 40 something, even at 30, and he still did in his early 60s. He was a great blether, but he was also fairly discreet. He never dissed anyone or talked about anything controversial in his career. His place is St Mary's Guest House in Longfield Terrace.

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