Many people are questioning the need for a new 17,500-20,000 seater stadium when both Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps rarely see attendance figures above 5000. (Read about the issues from the point of view of the Wycombe Wanderers supporters read >>
The 'new stadium effect' can temporarily boost gate numbers, but all the evidence points to figures settling back to what they were previously within months. And as to whether it boosts profits? Well, GASP is currently conducting a detailed investigation into the fortunes of clubs and towns who have ‘benefited’ from new stadia – including Doncaster, Darlington, Brighton, Cardiff and Wembley. The picture is not encouraging.
It begs the question: 'What is the need for a new stadium?'
The owner of Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps cites the business case for having hotels, bars and restaurants to enable the clubs to make more money (see <our money> link to see how even the business case doesn’t stack up) However we're being told it's a 'community' stadium. Very few community benefits have been forthcoming.
Care in the Community
The clubs cite their Community Outreach Programmes as one of their reasons for a new stadium, but surely the clue for that is in the title. Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps may make fantastic contributions to charities – but why do they need a new stadium to carry on that work? The clubs send their coaches out to schools, rather than the impossible logistics of bringing coachloads of schoolchildren to their stadium.
Furthermore, it is hardly going to be much of a community leisure facility when no-one can get to the stadium or park at weekends due to match traffic. Many consider the current stadium proposals to be a commercial venture rather than a community facility.
At first glance a ‘sporting village’ seems like a ‘good thing’. Better sports facilities for sports clubs and for our children to use has to be beneficial, right? But let’s think about this realistically.
Where has the ‘sporting village’ model worked elsewhere in the country? Who really wants to go to play on a bleak patch of turf where training pitch after training pitch stretches off into the distance and the clubhouse is miles away from the ground. How is the team spirit, the community going to form in those conditions?
Closure of local facilities
What about the local sports facilities that will have to close as a result of the centralisation of sports facilities at Booker? Local facilities are already suffering on two counts – lack of interest and lack of funding. Booker once had two cricket pitches, Lane End playing fields is rarely used – GASP is conducting its own rigorous survey into the current provision and demand for sports facilities, we’ll publish the results when they’re in.