Big new ambitions? Or downsizing? What do you make of stadium news?

17 Aug

Thursday morning. We’ve all had time to digest the news out of Griffin Park. Namely that in a week’s time Brentford FC will be presenting plans to Hounslow council for an amendment to our design for Lionel Road  – the key points of which include : a location move (3 metres south),Premier League quality ‘outside broadcast facilities within the stadium itself, the relocation of BFC Community Sports Trust outside the ground and the capacity reduction from 20,000 to 17,250. The target date for all of this is now late 2019 / early 2020.

The statements on the club site and in the programme from Cliff Crown & Mark Devlin have gone on to further elaborate on the reasoning about this in what, I have to be honest (and I’d say this to their face) reads an awful lot like a game of buzzword bingo in places. Especially with regards to the housing element of the project which is so key to making it a success.

That’s marketing speak. We’re always going to get it. What seems to be of as much interest to supporters is what these official statements don’t say about the redesign. The obvious questions that immediately get asked. Moreso when the statement from BIAS and the article on the Beesotted site (who had been given a preview of the plans a week earlier) cut to the heart of so many questions that supporters are asking.

What will it now look like? Why no club shop? Why no central bar areas such as The Hive? What are the Premium seats and why so many? 3000 out of a total capacity of 17250, and that includes away fans. What does that do for us ordinary fans who currently sit on, or around, the halfway line? Can we still afford to in future? Why no monorail?

Lionel Road monorail

Lionel Road. A new look – sans monorail – is coming

They are just a few of the obvious questions and ones which our fan groups quite rightly ask. Read the club statements but please also read these pieces too before you continue. That said, I can’t imagine many supporters are yet to see them.

Or the GPG to which I was also directed yesterday.

Welcome back Trevor; it’s been a while since I darkened your pages. Yet it seems that he has also been granted access to not only the plans but also a chat with Matthew Benham and Cliff Crown where many of these key questions have been both anticipated and which he has attempted to answer. Albeit, and in his words: “I didn’t make any notes of the meeting at the time, so this is a summary of our discussions created a few days later in a old man’s memory”.

I’d suggest you also have a read of this, too. If it as accurate as one would hope (presumably Matthew and Cliff would be at the doors of the GPG with pitchforks, flaming torches and lawyers if they had been misquoted or the article has not been pre-approved) then it presents a lot more clarity around the logic being employed. The reasoning behind certain decisions.

Which brings me to the crux of the matter after all this preamble. We’re talking about a new stadium. Not the end of days. This is a great, great thing.

We all recognise what Matthew Benham has done for the club. The vast investments he has made and the upward trajectory Brentford FC have been on over the last 6 years since he officially took over after our first dealings way back in 2009. Many of us have questioned his ‘mathematical model’ yet, equally, after three years in the Championship the fruits of this are clear for all to see.

He’s a supporter since 1979. He has been ever clear about his vision for sustainable top flight football. Frankly, he’s too far into this to run himself out with a half-baked scheme or an unsustainable one when it comes to stadium design. I can’t imagine any of these are decisions which have been taken lightly but at the end of the day (Clive) these changes would seem to be the compromise that needs to be made in order to deliver the build.

We all love Griffin Park. We all know it’s not fit for long term purpose. Certainly not sustainable Premier League football which is THE ambition for everybody at the club. Back in September 2015  Rasmus Ankersen told supporters at the Fans forum:  “It is not an option to not be in the Premier League. It has to happen in the next three years…. At the moment there is no Plan B. we’ll be in the Premier League in three years.”

That’s only a year away now. Quite frankly, I don’t want to be squatting at Loftus Road. The sooner we are able to take things forward the better.  And on that point, if that was our ambition then why were the much touted Outside Broadcast facilities not part of the original spec? For what it’s worth.

Griffin park GP

Griffin Park. Wonderful but not a long term future

Listen. I don’t want this to read as though it has an overly negative tone. Quite the opposite. Football is a hugely emotive thing. It is a part of all our being. Our collective experience. Our lives. Our friends and families have been made here and come here. Supporters are loving the fact that we have a new home on the horizon but, equally, from first impressions it seems that many are worried we’ll lose some of what makes being a Brentford fan unique. That we’ll be priced off our own doorstep.

Trevor’s article suggests we socialise ‘off site’. 3000 premium seats, whilst obviously a revenue winner, are pretty much 20% of the home fans. Will we be able to still be amongst ‘the heart’ of it?

Perhaps we’re lucky that at Griffin Park to sit in that location isn’t vastly prohibitive in terms of cost relative to other areas. Some element of clarity about that aspect – and Mark did note on Saturday that “We have already started planning the sales proves for Season Tickets and Premium seat packages”  – would be wonderful.

I want to keep coming and I will keep coming. I can’t wait to see what our new home looks and feels like. To experience top flight football there.

Let’s be realistic. Whatever our thoughts, nothing is going to change. Not physically. Redesigns are being submitted next week. This is it. Plans will be locked down. You can’t build a stadium based on a vote by committee of thousands. Equally, if it came down to another source would we even be in existence still? Let alone with such a prospect on the horizon?

But by the same virtue, why are we so poor at communications? (football is a village etc) . Why did it take Tom Moore to break the news a week ago? Then nothing be said once that story came out? When you take the forward thinking step of sharing the plans with our supporter groups, the obvious consequence is that they will have the time to digest them and review. To prepare questions. As I’m thankful the club have done and our groups have then reacted.

So why have the club not looked to anticipate some of these? It is clear they have come up in the discussions the club held with the fan groups. Whether as part of Cliff / Mark’s articles or as an additional statement alongside them. Why has it taken Trevor and the GPG (which not all supporters read) to provide undocumented answers?

To say again. This is a great thing that is happening. It seems trite to even consider having the hump over over a new stadium and a plan that is going to get us there. And personally, whilst I can’t get my head around some of the aspects, I don’t. We need a new home.

I don’t expect sales figures. I don’t expect minutiae to be shared in advance. That’s not how you do business. I’m not here to sell the plans to you or tear them down.

But once the news had broken, it would just have been good if we could have had a few more facts about the things that are really going to impact us. Even a picture would have been nice!

A fans forum is planned for next month. Will anything be said in advance? It would be in everyone’s interest if a bit more meat could be put on the bones of these plans. Publish an official statement rather than an article on the GPG.

It’s not every day you move home. It’s not that much to ask. Surely?

Nick Bruzon

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6 Responses to “Big new ambitions? Or downsizing? What do you make of stadium news?”

  1. peter lumley August 17, 2017 at 9:36 am #

    As ever ,Nick, an excellent analysis. For the past 50 years or more,I have occupied a seat in the Press Box or a season ticket seat immediately in front of the Press Box. As a pensioner approaching 85 there is no way I will be able to afford a seat anywhere comparable in the new stadium. And if Tuesday evening is anything to go by, finding a car parking space anywhere near the ground will be virtually impossible, especially for the evening games !!

  2. Rob August 17, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    I think your comments are fair. Basic ‘why are we doing this now?’ answers should have been prepared then we the fans won’t feel so concerned about the thinking going into this. Do we now feel we can’t open the fan base up sufficiently to fill (with away supporters) a 20k stadium, now or if / when we are hosting Chelsea, Tottenham, Man U, Arsenal etc etc? Does this mean we will continue to struggle with FFP restrictions on what will now be a smaller ground? Isnt a bar a good revenue generator? (Or by not having one does that lend itself more to justifying safe standing areas?). Who knows! We certainly don’t! I’m confident there’s a legitimate reason that’s not to the detriment of our long term future and our owners long term commitment, but again, as you say not quite an own goal in terms of PR but more a dodgy back pass to Bentley who slices the ball to the opposition!

  3. oldbeesfan August 17, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    We seen it all before chaps ( ask Mark Warburton ) With Benham and Crown it is always going to be their way or the highway .
    Thank you Mr Benham for what you have done for the club and you are certainly no Jack Dunnett who once infamously said he thought that he was trying to do something which would give the club a future .
    When the dust has settled come 3.00 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon cheering on the Bees is all that will mater for the next 90 minutes .

  4. RebelBee August 18, 2017 at 6:46 am #

    Well written balanced piece! Personally uncomfortable with the selective release of info & leaks prior to that ( we knew this was coming in May). No slight on MB & his amazing contribution to BFC, this doesn’t mean I have to feel great about these changes or the way it is being handled, in fairness neither are those that were given the advanced heads up. LR isn’t just concrete & polypipe, it’s the heart of the club & community – for generations to come, for the kids & their kids. To see many of LR’s uniqueness air brushed away, presumably by the Ryan Air guy, leaves me feeling disappointed. It’s not specifically the capacity it’s more about how the numbers now don’t add up & the anticipation of what we thought we were getting compared to what we now may end up with. I wonder if all those who put heart & soul into making this happen are ok with where we are headed now. Sure it’s not my money, but the club is a big part of me & relative to my income I make a huge investment in it, I feel my voice & the thousands like me is worth something.

    • nickbruzon August 18, 2017 at 7:04 am #

      Nicely put Rebel. We’re never going to have a ‘perfect’ plan. The fact it has taken so long to get this far shows that.
      For me, and as I’ve noted, like it or not we can’t alter the physical build here. A decision has been made by the people bankrolling the project.

      But you are also right. Fans have invested a lot of emotional time into the club over the years. And money. Even from things as simple as buying a programme or a pint at HT. By bringing a friend.

      What the same people bankrolling this need to also do is make sure they don’t alienate those that are still coming.

      Through things as simple as talking to us. Telling us what they can directly rather than relying on leaks and supporter groups. We have a club website and a Stadium specific one too. Anticipate the Q&A. Put some facts up.

      But most of all, just don’t price is out and don’t lose our special sense of being Brentford.

      • asasdasdasd August 18, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

        None of the leaks came from “the club”….a few drink in The Griffin was all that was required

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