A home away from home...
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS & CHRIS LYNHAM
Date published: 24 February 2011
With Athletic’s future at Boundary Park looking ever-more uncertain following the Charity Commission’s decision to turn down plans for a stadium in Failsworth, MATTHEW CHAMBERS and CHRIS LYNHAM take a look at the six possible destinations for next season.
OLDHAM Athletic will have to work hard to persuade Football League bosses of their case to ground-share out of town next season.
And before getting the green light, Athletic’s board would also have to demonstrate clearly how they intend to bring football back to the area in the future.
That’s the verdict of Football League chiefs who told the Chronicle a decision on whether to grant the club permission to move elsewhere would be made only after a careful examination of its proposals.
Athletic chairman Simon Corney is believed to be currently exploring the possibility of leaving behind the traditional home of Boundary Park next season in order to move in as tenants with another club.
He says there is “just not the will” to carry on playing at the decaying old ground for another season after plans for a new £20million stadium in Failsworth were knocked back. A number of ground options appear to be possibilities for Athletic for next season, all of which would see the club play outside the town’s borders for the 2011-12 campaign.
“The club would need to make an official application which would be put in front of the board, who would make a decision on a case-by-case basis,” said a Football League spokesman.
Section 13, clause 4 of current league regulations state that “ground-sharing will only be approved at the discretion of the board” and that ‘the board will not generally approve any ground-sharing arrangement where the club plays its matches outside the conurbation, as defined by the board, from which the club takes its name or with which it is otherwise traditionally associated”.
There are currently no professional teams in England’s Premier League or Football League sharing the same home ground, though it is a more popular trend elsewhere in Europe.
The most recent parallel with Athletic’s current situation is that of Rotherham United.
Also without firm plans for a new stadium, the South Yorkshire club were given permission to leave their spiritual home of Millmoor after a dispute with the owners, exchanging their old home for the environs of the Don Valley Stadium in near-by Sheffield before the start of the 2008-09 season. However, strict conditions were imposed on that switch by the Football League. Rotherham were given a five-year deadline to get back playing in their home town or face expulsion from the League.
The League Two club currently trains in Doncaster, plays in Sheffield and has its home offices on an industrial estate in Rotherham, with plans now in place to move into a new purpose-built 12,000-capacity stadium in the town centre for the start of the 2012-13 season.
Capacity: 10,832 (all seated)
Division: League Two
Before financial difficulties kicked in at County, the club converted former open terrace the Railway End into an open seating area in 2001, which caters for away fans. The Hatters share Edgeley Park with Sale Sharks.
Distance from home: 14.1 miles
Division: League One
Athletic could yet end up staying at their home of 107 years, at least until a viable alternative is found. The ground only has three sides following the demolition of the Broadway Stand, with plans for redevelopment of the existing site having to be shelved as a result of the recession.
Capacity: 11,669 (all seated)
Division: League Two
Gigg Lane was completely rebuilt in the 1990s, with the Cemetery End completed at the end of that decade.
FC United of Manchester currently share the ground with Bury, but the Evo-Stik Premier Division outfit have been given the green light for a move to a £3.5m purpose-built ground in Newton Heath.
Distance from home: 13.9 miles
Division: League One
Three new stands have been constructed over the last 10 years at Spotland. The most recent, the Westrose Leisure Stand, replaced a terrace and holds 4,000 supporters. Shared with Rochdale Hornets RL club.
Distance from HOME: 6 miles
Capacity: 6,108 (1,200 seats)
Division: Blue Square North
Celtic would have to carry out improvements in order to accommodate league football, and move from Grade ‘B’ status to Grade ‘A’.
However, this would involve the addition of features such as CCTV, rather than an expensive overhaul of a ground that is already easy on the eye. Athletic’s reserve team play matches at Bower Fold.
Distance from home: 8.4 miles
Capacity: 4,000 (524 seats)
Division: Evo-Stik League Division One North
Sir Alex Ferguson unveiled Curzon’s new Conference-standard ground in 2005.
It is currently at Grade ‘C’ status and, although very little work would be required to move it up a grade, it is unlikely the club would be able to achieve Grade ‘A’ (Football League) standard without financial support. Both ends are currently uncovered.
Distance from home: 2.8 miles