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Published : 11 Feb 2010 02:43:59
One fans view Last Thursday, the club invited fans down to view the plans for Latics new ground in Failsworth. This was an opportunity for all to meet key players, see graphics of the stadium and ask any important questions about the move. Many took the chance to do this. On entering the Sponsors Suite, my first impressions were that the current crop of fans viewing seemed to be a mix of either very pro-Failsworth or people like myself, scepticle but there to see what the club have to say. There didn't appear to be any of those voices who are dead against the move around, if there were, they were quietly going about their business. The images showed a stadium which wasn't as unique as promised and appeared to be a similar type ground to modern ones springing up now. You can see designs on the official site to judge for yourself. Catching a minute to chat with a developer tasked with designing the stadium, I was told that the capacity would be "10-12,000" which seemed a shift from the original sizes talked about. In addition, it was stated that away fans would be situated behind one goal with the possibility of sectioning off part of one side should a big game be anticipated. There seemed little concern that a 10,000 capacity would see a large percent given to away fans (maybe as much as 40%) for big games with the potential of leaving our own locked out. This seemed quite restrictive in building our own fan base, especially if we moved up the leagues or had some cup success. The sort of success which gripped the Oldham imagination back in 89/90. In addition to the restrictions on capacity, the graphics appeared misleading with many fans questioning why the corners were filled in on the pictures when they wouldn't be when built. Some added that without the corners, the stadium would look quite poor. The answer was that this would be part of future expansion should this be necessary. Looking at surrounding areas, the size of the land seemed quite restrictive also. With no option to expand Northwards due to powers cables (these would cost £1m to re-route) or South due to the Lancaster club, any designs to increase capacity significantly should a wealthy investor (nobody knows what might happen!) ever be interested would be dead in the water. On the plus side, it became clear that with the War Memorial to the North of the power cables it seems The Oldham Chronicle have been making stuff up over the potential for this to scupper plans. However, regarding the allottments, this would be another matter! Situated to the South of the site, the allottments would be right in the way of the stadium plans and "unsightly". I was told that the club have offered to build another one nearby with extra spaces to help alleviate a large waiting list for places. It is hoped this will satisfy the current owners however looking at this from their side, with decades of family history invested it would seem that extra spaces in a new site would be little recompence. After all, they've got their own plot so why would they care about new plot owners? Speaking directly with Ian Hill, we discussed those with real doubts about Failsworth and the minority that have developed a mis-trust of TTA. I highlighted the one main grievence felt since Failsworth was first mentioned; the way redevelopment was shelved overnight and Failsworth given as the "take it or leave it" option. Mr Hill agreed this was an unfortunate consequnece of circumstances but stated "it just all happened at breakneck speed, it really was that fast!" He added that TTA were powerless to say much or it could jeopardise the deals going on and indicated that sums of around £3m had been spent on the Failsworth project so far. I stated that if the club wanted to go about solving the mistrust issues, they should come out with detailed costings and explanations as to why redevelopment couldn't work...not just the original Oldham Arena plans, but even a scaled-down bit-by-bit version like Preston or WBA have done. Mr Hill gave me several figures which answered why Oldham Arena, built in one go, wasn't viable any longer but when pressed on a bit-by-bit project, the answer was that Failsworth "became the preferred choice." Sadly, this didn't answer my question. On discussing what could be done to ease the minds of those with doubts, I asked if the club could produce some sort of "Fans Charter" akin to a list of promises, guarantees and deals being worked towards, eg. A 100-yr guarantee that the site is to be used for football or guarantees that the clubs name will not be changed by TTA. Ian Hill stated that the club were working towards securing football for 150 years at the site, as well as the ability to stage other leisure activities. Mr Hill also added that he couldn't see any business sense in TTA or any new owner taking over and changing us to Manchester or Failsworth Athletic. Overall, I came away with a couple of new answers that I had sought and one or two questions left unanswered, mostly on the stadium size and why a smaller-scaled staged redevelopment couldn't work. What concerns me however is that having been to this show and tell and both Radclyffe School meetings, the club have given off the air of "accept it without question" which leaves sceptics more nervous than satisfied. And isolated! Accepting redevelopment isn't going to happen (which I have reluctantly) isn't the issue and the club and pro-Failsworth fans maybe need to understand this as our fanbase diminishes. I'm still yet to be convinced Failsworth will happen (we have been dashed several times in the past) or that it will work due to the stadium size and location...but I know if it doesn't, it won't be for the lack of TTA's efforts.In some ways, I sympathise with TTA for their efforts. In other ways, I feel at times they bring on the negativity through their own actions. Or non-actions. Where is their new 5-yr business plan now the last one has expired (or one for however long they plan to be here). I'd like to see a Fans Charter with real promises and guarantess. I'd like to hear projected potential income from the stadium and predicted percentages directed towards the playing budget! It might go a long way to settling some minds that this is the right thing to do...we can build the San Siro but without a successful team on the pitch from the revenue streams being created, no-one will come! Especially in Failsworth!