Brentford have been having difficulties finding a location for their proposed new stadium, with the club at loggerheads with the local council. Chris Clapham looks at the poosible solutions
Griffin Park has been Brentford’s home since 1904, but with gates falling and the local council refusing to allow redevelopment, most supporters had long accepted that the club needed a new purpose-built stadium However, the recently agreed deal that would take Brentford to groundshare at Woking’s Kingfield Stadium from the start of the 2002-03 season has caused uproar among Bees fans.
Several possible sites had been earmarked for the new stadium. Among them were Chiswick Bus Works, which has since been redeveloped, and the Western International Market near Heathrow Airport, which appeared too large a scheme for the club to undertake. Feltham Arena, an athletics stadium six miles east of Griffin Park, looked to be the best hope.
The club wanted to develop a stadium holding 12-15,000, with the option of expanding capacity should they win promotion. Hounslow Borough Council, however, wanted a 25,000 multi-sports venue. As things stand, the club has not applied for planning permission. There has also been talk of a joint venture at Feltham with neighbours Queens Park Rangers, but they would appear to have other things to worry about at the moment.
After he started talks with Woking in February this year, some supporters assumed that Brentford chairman Ron Noades was trying to bluff the council into agreeing to his ideas for the Feltham site. (Relations between Noades and Hounslow Borough Council have appeared to be hamstrung generally by a clash of personalities – an independent company now liaises with the council on the club’s behalf.) However, in June it was announced that a non-returnable sum of £30,000 had been lodged with our prospective new landlords. Many fans suspect that the arrangement will last for longer than the initially proposed two years.
Faced with the prospect of the club’s effective extinction, a “No To Woking” campaign has gathered pace and received some encouragement in the form of a statement issued by the Football League, which has raised objections to the proposal on the basis that it would involve the club moving further than 25 miles from their current base. The club’s managing director Gary Hargreaves has played down the League’s rejection, however: “This is quite normal. Further discussions need to take place with the board of the Football League.”
In the meantime, fans are concentrating their efforts on a peaceful, organised campaign to fight the Woking option. While the sale of Griffin Park would allow Brentford to clear their debts of around £3 million, supporters sense that a venture into Surrey would mean becoming effectively homeless, stranded at a 6,000 capacity non-League ground. Surveys carried out by supporters groups suggest that only 34 per cent of fans would watch the Bees at Woking.
Brentford visit the Kingfield Stadium on Friday July 20 for a pre-season friendly, where a peaceful mass demonstration is planned. There will also be a march from Hounslow Civic Centre to the ground by supporters at an early home game, along with a coffin and a tolling bell to highlight the club’s plight.
Woking have given Brentford until the end of September to finalise a groundshare agreement. While most fans don’t entertain romantic notions about redeveloping Griffin Park, the high risk strategy the club seems willing to take makes no sense to us.
From WSC 174 August 2001. What was happening this month