Fans fear a postcode switch will hit Latics

Reporter: Karen Doherty
Date published: 10 December 2009

FANS had their say on Oldham Athletic’s £20 million plans to move to Failsworth.

Around 90 supporters quizzed a club panel which included owner Simon Corney and chief executive Alan Hardy.

They voiced their concerns and ideas about the proposals to switch from Boundary Park to a new stadium, leisure and commercial development off Broadway.

But last night’s frank and good-humoured meeting at Radclyffe School, Chadderton, had none of the vehement opposition of Latics’ recent consultation with Failsworth residents.

One fan said he would follow Latics wherever they played — but feared that the new stadium’s Manchester postcode would turn others away in droves.

He explained: “From a football point of view you couldn’t have picked a worse place. It’s hostile territory. It’s Manchester United territory with a few City fans. I think it is a very badly thought-out move. I know you get resistance to change but this consultation should have taken place long before now. You should have come up with three or four sites and then held the consultation.”

Another added: “We are just scared of losing our identity because it is a very old and very proud club. That’s the position for me although I am all for moving to a new stadium.”

But Barry Owen, chairman of supporters’ trust Trust Oldham said: “We are not just looking at what’s good for us.

“We have got to be looking at what’s good for the next generation and the generation after that.”

And Failsworth resident Chris Coleman added: “The proposed stadium is facing my house. There are a number of Failsworth residents here and we are not all against this development.

“A lot of people from Failsworth do support Oldham Athletic.

“I know it is going to be difficult with a Manchester postcode but I live down there and I know where I come from!”

The panel explained why other sites from Clayton to Beal Valley had been ruled out — including a suggested four-mile move to Kingsway, Rochdale, which has an OL postcode but would be vetoed by the Football League.

They said that a planned development package at Lancaster Sports Club, Lower Memorial Park and Broadway Allotments was the only viable option..

The stadium’s 12,000 capacity could be increased if Latics recaptured their Premiership glory days while Mr Corney insisted that the plans would not be scuppered if the club was relegated.

“If we get relegated we might lose another 500-600 off the gate. We can’t afford to rely on the fans coming if the football is good or not coming if the football is bad,” he said.

Mr Corney admitted that there was no Plan B if the proposals were knocked back. But he strongly denied that he and fellow owners Simon Blitz and Danny Gazal were in it for the money, stressing that there was no way they could get back the millions they had put in.

“We have fallen in love with the place. It will be sad when the day comes to move but I just do not genuinely see any alternative,” he added.

Development options will be drawn up followed by more consultation and an exhibition. People will then be able to give their views on a final masterplan before a planning application is submitted.