THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

17 May ~ York City fans spent last Saturday at Wembley, where much of the crowd chatter was about how awful the ground was – all-seater, soulless and inaccessible. Today, supporters find out whether such qualities will be recreated at future home games, when the application for York's new stadium goes in front of the local council planning committee. The proposal has left many fans wondering what the purpose of a lower league football club should be.

The story of how York ended up in this situation bears retelling. In 2001 the club's long-term chairman asset-stripped the club by selling our Bootham Crescent home before offloading the footballing side of the business to John Batchelor, a man who would later boast: "That's what I do – I fuck companies," (and he did). Eventually the stadium was reunited with the club, thanks to a £2 million loan from the Football Foundation, which was given on the condition that the club sell up and move to a new site at the earliest opportunity.

It has taken the best part of a decade for that opportunity to arise and the result is horrifically uninspiring: the chance to move to a basic all-seater ground that consists of three stands and a mere 6,000 seats, and is situated in a shopping park on the edge of the city. The entire project only exists only as an enabling development so a John Lewis store can be built on the adjacent greenfield site.

Even worse, the club's potential home looks like it was designed by a safety officer with a Meccano set. It features what appears to be a bus shelter down one side; Burton's concrete box Pirelli Stadium is architecturally thrilling in comparison.

Supporters have been left in the uncomfortable position of lobbying hard for something none of them want: to leave an untouched, pre-Taylor Report city-centre football ground that is filled with character and only a few minutes' walk from city-centre pubs and the railway station. But it has been presented as a stark choice: move and keep the club's name alive or stay at Bootham Crescent and face bankruptcy. The McGill family have patiently and loyally subsidised York's extended stay in non-League but this cannot go on without the additional funds to pay off the loan and undertake redevelopment at the existing site.

The debate over the club's proposed "community stadium" should be taken as a chance to consider why clubs such as York City continue to exist. Rather than pretending that the team could still sweep up the leagues and sustain itself at Championship level, fans need to adopt a more realistic position that looks at the wider purpose of the club.

In the current footballing environment, the best that York supporters can hope for is a financially stable club competing at the top of League Two, offering affordable football to a proud city and rebuilding a youth system that has produced many Premier League players. The club should retain some ambition, yes, but without forgetting the last decade of scrimping and fundraising that has been required to survive multiple financial crises.

If the club is to exist for future generations of fans to enjoy, a key part of that involves recognising that a team's surroundings are just as important as the ever-changing cast of players on the pitch. Considered in these terms, it would be a crying shame to abandon a stadium that sits at the very heart of the community it seeks to serve. James Waterson

Comments (11)
Comment by ingoldale 2012-05-17 17:17:04

"a mere 6,000 seats" do you not contradict yourself somewhat here when you go on to say "fans need to adopt a more realistic position..." 3,239 has been he average league attendance this season for a team playing some fantastic football and contesting the play-offs. It seems that 6,000 seats would be plenty for the moment.

It is shame that York will be forced to an out of town venue as it is a great way due it's current location. The away end is awful at Bootham Crescent though.

Comment by Grimmer 2012-05-17 18:18:55

The committee meeting is still going on and is being blogged live by the local paper:

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/9710223.LIVE__D_Day_for_stadium_and_shops_plan/

At time of typing indications are more "yes" than "no".

I must admit that, as much as I love Bootham Crescent, it isn't really suitable long term. It's cramped with poor facilities; I'll miss it but the club can't keep it just for the sake of it being charming. Also I don't want the club to mortgage their future chasing promotions but York isn't that small (it's much bigger than Wigan or Blackburn for example).

I have to say I'm a "yes" man on this one. Anyway, where do you get the 3 stands bit from ... have I missed something???

Comment by Grimmer 2012-05-17 18:22:40

Oh, and I was there on Saturday. I found Wembley easy to get to and fine for "character" and "soul". What exactly does that stadium need to make it acceptable?

Comment by Grimmer 2012-05-17 18:34:38

Approved!!

Comment by peakevilla 2012-05-17 21:08:59

Perhaps, in looking at designs, York City might look across the pond at Houston Dynamo's ne stadium, the BBVA Compass stadium. It holds 22,000, but has a lovely atmosphere, plenty of light, and wonderful views of the Houston skyline, as it's situated in the city centre. Bootham Crescent has always been one of my favourite grounds, with all it's charm and location, but hopefully they will build a new stadium that will not resemble the homes of Darlington, Sunderland, Middlesborough, Shrewsbury etc.

Comment by Jongudmund 2012-05-18 12:44:11

What's wrong with Shrewsbury's new ground?

Comment by HORN 2012-05-19 08:32:38

Bootham never feels that close to the railway station. Twenty minutes walk or so?

Though I bet even Sir Ranulph Fiennes would want to take the bus to the new site.

Comment by nansell 2012-05-20 22:18:26

As an Oxford supporter living in York for the past ten years, I'm very pleased that City have regained their league status at Wembley today, after a momentous week when their new stadium plan was approved. In Oxford I lived close to the Manor, which was similar to Bootham Crescent in its ramshackle state of dilapidation and cramped site in a residential area. The Kassam Stadium is relatively inaccessible by public transport, but is far superior in terms of its space and facilities. Yes, it lacks the character and intimidating atmosphere of the old ground (especially under lights against big clubs - there were memorable games in the 80s when Oxford were in Division 1) and, yes, the team's home record declined after the move. But on balance the change has been positive, despite four seasons in the Conference, with the club able to aspire to competing at higher levels.

Now that York have the prospect of a new stadium, in terms of facilities they will be on a par with most other clubs in League Two.

Postscript ... Two years ago it was my hope that both Oxford and York would be promoted together, a scenario which looked quite possible until Stevenage overtook them both to gain the automatic promotion place. It was unfortunate that they ended up having to play each other for the second place, though I have to say that Oxford's victory was a gloriously memorable one, more spectacular than finishing top of the Conference table would have been. I'm glad that York have now done the same, and look forward to future fixtures between them - a small compensation for Oxford failing to make the League Two playoffs ...

Comment by Grimmer 2012-05-20 23:56:48

HORN there is a short cut if you are in the know. 10 mins tops from the station if you go across Scarborough Bridge.

Comment by madmickyf 2012-05-21 04:52:00

After yesterdays result I hope they build a 25,000 seater monstrosity like Darlington did with the same consequences. Sour Grapes? Absobloodylutely!!

Comment by nansell 2012-05-21 10:18:20

HORN - just to add to Grimmer's point, there's now a direct pedestrian/cycle exit from the north end of the station short-term car park, leading to the footpath alongside the Royal Mail sorting office to the riverside by Scarborough bridge.

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