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County Ground redevelopment Q&A Vote County Ground, Nov 18th

Download a printable version of this Q&:A sheet here

So what is this County Ground motion?

There is a motion being debated at the next full council meeting of Swindon Borough Council (Nov 18th) calling on the council to talk to the club and the New Swindon Company about the possibility of redeveloping the County Ground. The motion also calls on the council to review all Borough-owned land to find a suitable site for a new stadium should redevelopment of the County Ground not prove feasible.

Why do we need to redevelop the County Ground or move at all?

STFC, like a lot of football clubs, cannot survive on matchday revenue alone – how many other businesses can you think of that could survive on 25-30 busy days a year? So the club need the facilities to generate non-matchday revenue, whether that be through a hotel, a conference centre, a sports village or whatever. Without that extra revenue stream, the club simply cannot continue - as it is, it is only due to Sir Seton Wills stepping in several times in the past few years that the club have not folded already.

Why the emphasis on the County Ground?

We have emphasised redeveloping the County Ground as the preferred option because:

  • it's just common sense – the club are already there which means less upheaval for everyone and the support infrastructure is already in place

  • the central location makes it very easy for the majority of fans to get to on foot or by public transport which means less trips by car (very important in council planning terms!), and the same applies for additional facilities there – if, for example, a conference centre is developed there, being on the edge of the town centre makes it an attractive location for business as they have the advantages of being near town centre without getting snarled up in the town centre itself; likewise if community sporting facilities are planned, it's no use putting them somewhere where the community can't easily get to them. The County Ground is an ideal location in terms of accessibility for the majority of likely users: football fans, local users of community facilities, and business users

  • we believe a football club should be in the heart of the community which forms its base, not stuffed on the edge of town like a plastic supermarket (no offence, Reading)

  • the County Ground is the club's historic home – no-one wants to move unless we have to. We found when collecting the petition that the overwhelming majority of fans want to stay at the County Ground if at all possible

  • there's already a football club there so we don't face the inevitable howls of protest from residents in another area faced with having a new stadium plonked on their doorstep

But I thought we couldn't redevelop the County Ground? What's changed?

Nothing's changed as such, but previously people had only looked at the site in the very narrow terms of the actual land occupied by the football club. If you only look at the land used by STFC, then it's correct that there simply isn't the room to allow the club to redevelop; but if you look at the whole site, it's about the same size as “phase 3” of the Shaw Forest area where the club had drawn up revised plans to site a sports village following objections to the initial scheme to use the land of all three phases of the Shaw Forest area. So there's more scope for redevelopment if you look at it that way. Then too, if you look at the County Ground as being potentially the gateway to a redeveloped town centre, that also widens the scope considerably – the town centre regeneration project is a 10-year, £1 billion plan. Tie redevelopment of the County Ground onto the edge of that and the whole picture becomes a lot bigger than just rebuilding bits of a football ground, and a lot more exciting for both developers and local and regional government.

All well and good, but what are the exact details of your plans?

The straight answer is we don't have detailed plans at the moment. What we are trying to do at this stage is to get all the key partners – the club, the council, the New Swindon Company, supporters' groups, developers and local residents round a table and talking. Obviously even at this stage there are a lot of suggestions – e.g. local businesses are crying out for a decent conference centre in the town and the County Ground would be an ideal location; or in another direction, “partnership schemes” between club, council and community groups at other clubs have built community and sporting facilities, funded by a mix of “paying public” revenue and government money aimed at social projects; or a mix of commercial and community facilities. Until everyone's sat down talking and working together to achieve that, we won't know what ideas will come up. It's not for us to pre-empt these discussions by coming up with “take-it-or-leave-it” answers on a plate. We don't believe there are such easy answers – but we do believe that there are a lot of wonderful opportunities for such a prime location as the County Ground to build something really special we can all be proud of and that together we can do it.

Isn't this just pie in the sky?

No – neither the club nor the council would be wasting their time talking to us if this wasn't possible. Both are genuinely excited about the possibilities of this initiative – as we said above, as yet there's no fixed plan in detail but there won't be one until we all start talking. And that can't happen until this motion is passed. We've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain for the club and the town – let's make this happen!

What if redeveloping the County Ground isn't viable?

As stated above, it would be wrong at this stage to prejudge any of the possible outcomes and although we believe a viable solution can be found at the County Ground, if it turns out the County Ground is a no-go, that is why the motion also includes provision for the council to survey all Borough-owned land to find a suitable location for a new ground. Simply put, we look at the County Ground first, but if that's a non-starter the council are committed to helping us find a new site within the Borough.

But will the council pass the motion?

We certainly hope so! We have worked very hard to get the backing of all political parties for this initiative, and this is reflected in the fact that the motion is being put forward by the leaders of all three political parties on the council. This cross-party backing is vital as it means the motion will be seen as a measure that is good for the town as a whole, rather than just another party political point-scoring exercise.

OK, so if all the political parties are behind it, it's a “done deal”, right?

Far from it. First, we have to get the motion passed – that's a lot easier with all the parties behind it, but not guaranteed. Second, assuming the motion is passed, there's still a long way to go, and it's vital that we ensure that everyone follows up on the motion and it doesn't just become another policy left gathering dust on the shelf. To do that we need to show that there is widespread support for the motion, among the fans and in the town generally so that councillors know we expect them to act on it.

What can I do to help?

  • Sign the petition backing the motion online, in the club shop, at the TrustSTFC office, or one of the volunteers with clipboards on matchdays. Or even come along to the TrustSTFC office before the Sheffield Wednesday game on November 13th and help collect signatures.

  • Download the petition from the TrustSTFC website, print it out and pass it round at work, in the pub, after your Sunday League game, wherever. Then bring it in to the TrustSTFC office on the day of the Sheffield Wednesday FA Cup game (Nov 13th) or post it back to the TrustSTFC PO Box by Nov 15th

  • If you live in Swindon, write to your councillor, explaining that you back the motion not just as a football fan but as a Swindon resident who believes it is in the wider interests of the town.

  • Write a letter to the Evening Advertiser, calling on councillors to do something positive for the club and the town by backing the motion

  • Talk to your fellow fans, show them this Q&A sheet and get them involved as well.

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Important Information

Swindon Town Community Mutual Limited, trading as TrustSTFC, an Industrial and Provident Society registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1965-78. All references to the ‘Trust’ or TrustSTFC on this site are to the Swindon Town Community Mutual Limited that holds funds, under its rules, for the benefit of the community and not in trust for its members.