I write to update you on the Club’s stadium plans. I am conscious that there has been an exceptional amount of coverage on this subject over the past couple of weeks. We submitted our final bid for the Olympic Stadium site at noon today and I should, therefore, like to outline our proposals and to update you on the position of the Northumberland Development Scheme (NDP).
Our proposals for the Olympic Stadium site include an iconic 60,000 seater stadium, the construction of which is fully financially guaranteed. It is designed along the lines of that which we incorporated in our planning application for the NDP, with a single tier end and seats close to the action on the pitch. It would rank amongst the finest in the world and deliver one of the best fan experiences anywhere in Europe. It would also host major concerts and other sporting and cultural events to be delivered as part of a year-round programme by our partner in the bid, AEG, the operators of The O2.
The proposals include the re-use of the existing infrastructure in order to maximize the benefit of the public investment to date. Surrounded by an exceptional public realm which would host community-focussed events and activities, the stadium would benefit from the best public transport and access for any stadium in Britain and our plans also include a major tourist attraction based around extreme sports and incorporating specialist sports retailing, restaurants, cafes and bars.
We proposed a comprehensive athletics legacy which included facilitating a permanent 25,000-seat athletics venue at Crystal Palace, with the ability to convert to 40,000 for a World Championship, along with support for grassroots athletics.
The easiest option for us would undoubtedly have been to bid for the Olympic Stadium site with a retained athletics track. But it would have been the wrong option. The front row seats in the Olympic Stadium with a retained athletics track will be up to 45m from the pitch; in our stadium design they would be 8m from the action.
Football and athletics cannot co-exist successfully in the same stadium. There are examples all over the world of where clubs have removed tracks or moved stadiums simply because of the poor spectator experience and the lack of sustainability in the long-term due to decreasing attendances. We never considered for one moment placing our fans in such a stadium environment.
The decision now rests with the Olympic Park Legacy Company as to who they will select as their preferred bidder, with whom they would then enter into detailed negotiations in order to reach a final agreement. This is scheduled to be announced following an OPLC Board meeting on 28 January 2011. As I have stated previously, should we be selected as the preferred bidder, we shall engage with and fully consult our supporters.
In respect of the NDP, the S106, the planning agreement required before full planning consent can be issued, has been signed by ourselves, Haringey Council and Transport for London and is in the process of being signed by the relevant financial institutions.
That said, I must once again repeat the concerns we have about the viability and deliverability of the NDP. The cost of consent has been high. This is not attributable to any one stakeholder, but is rather the result of the cumulative nature of the various obligations. We have worked well in partnership with Haringey Council and I should like to thank them for their support in reaching this stage in the process.
No progress has been made with the remaining land owners and this is a potentially costly issue. As such, we have yet to conclude the site assembly. Compulsory Purchase Orders are of course one route to resolving this, but that process is uncertain and can take years to conclude.
So, in some ways much has happened and in others, we are still determining new stadium plans.
Our guiding principles remain the same – we are committed to taking this Club to the next level and an increased capacity stadium is central to that intention; and we have to seek a stadium solution which does not undermine the financial stability of the Club or its ability to continue to invest in the First Team.
If you look at the stadium capacities of the top 20 clubs in Europe, they all exceed ours. The new Financial Fair Play rules will mean that we shall only be able to outlay income generated through the activities of the Club – increased match day revenues play a major role in a club’s finances and we need to ensure that we are in a position to thrive and to continue to compete at the highest level.
Perhaps more importantly, we now have over 35,000 fans on the paid for waiting list for season tickets. It is an astonishing figure and a real reminder of the strength of support for this Club and the hunger there is to come and see the team playing some of the most attractive and exciting football in the Premier League and in European competition.
I am ever conscious of the feelings of our fans - on all fronts. I have never made any secret of the fact that I am ambitious on behalf of this Club and our fans. You could say that the one choice we do have , is the choice between standing still or moving forward. I know what my choice is and, judging from the emails we receive at the Club, you join me in wanting to see our Club progress. A new stadium is critical to our continued success. I shall keep you updated and thank you for all your support.
In the meantime we have a season to be getting on with and some fantastic football to enjoy.