By Ben Collins – @BCjourno
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC announced on Thursday night that the club is in talks with Tameside Council over relocating to a new, purpose-built stadium.
Around 100 supporters gathered in the Social Club at Bower Fold to hear chairman Rob Gorski make the announcement, just a day after his 3rd meeting with the Council about the potential move.
Gorski explained that given the money coming into the National League North, Stalybridge are finding it increasingly difficult to be competitive at that level so need to find new ways to generate more revenue.
They initially approached the Council to ask for help with building a new, two-storey social club at Bower Fold that would give them better, more profitable banqueting facilities. But Gorski said that discussions developed, with the Council coming back to the club with the proposals of a new stadium.
The Council have already identified a site in the town centre, although they have asked Gorski not to reveal the exact location just yet. The new development would feature a banqueting suite that caters for 500 people, a 4G pitch, a social club and several retail units.
Gorski said he hoped the club’s Academy and Junior section would be based there too, with lessons for the Academy students taking place inside the stadium and coaching taking place out on the pitch. That would ensure the stadium would be used at least 5 days a week, not just matchdays, and guarantee several revenue streams for the club to make money, as well as saving them money on what they currently spend on Academy/Junior facilities.
It’s still early days in the discussions, with a proposed completion date of 2020. Gorski did stress that the proximity of a chemical works to the proposed site could stop the project dead in its tracks and that if the deal was not in the best interests of the cub, they would not go ahead with it, but one fan did thank him for letting them know so soon in the process.
If the project doesn’t pan out, Gorski said the worst-case scenario for the club is that the Council would help them build a new social club at Bower Fold. However, if it’s everything it promises to be, he believes it could provide Celtic with a budget to be competitive in the National League, never mind the National League North. He called it “not just a chance of a lifetime but the chance of a century”.
The general feeling among those at the meeting was one of positivity. They recognise that something drastic needs to be done to boost the club’s finance and halt what they see as its gradual decline over recent years.
One of the main concerns was that the new stadium does not feel like a “soulless windy hole”, which is how some described Curzon Ashton’s Tameside Stadium, although it was also acknowledged how the revenue streams that move has generated has transformed Curzon’s fortunes, allowing them to join Celtic at step two.
Some fans were also wary of ‘doing a Northwich’. The Vics sold off their stadium in 2012 and moved out before a new one was built so then had to ground-share and were demoted down the non-league ladder. They remain at step four, in the Evo-Stik South, and now ground-share with Witton Albion. Celtic’s league rivals Worcester City made a similar mistake but Gorski assured fans that Bridge would not do the same.
All in all, it sounds like a good idea worth exploring. If the worst-case scenario is getting a new social club out of it then surely it’s a win-win for Celtic. There are a lot more hurdles to clear before the project stands any chance of coming to fruition but fair play to Gorski for keeping fans informed and taking the opportunity to present all the pros and cons before rumours got out and the motivation behind the proposal got twisted – ie, the club is most definitely NOT looking to merely sell off Bower Fold to property developers.
As for on-field matters, striker Lee Gaskell has left the club this week while James Roberts has arrived on loan from Oxford United. The 20-year-old striker has played 29 League Two games for the U’s and has been on loan with Oxford City this season in the National League South. He will be available for Saturday’s home game with Bradford Park Avenue but there will be a pitch inspection at 10.45 tomorrow morning.
Gorski also told fans that if Bridge are relegated from the National League North, they would be determined to come back up as Evo-Stik Premier champions next term. And while new manager Steve Burr has signed an 18-month contract and committed to staying put if they go down, Gorski accepted that “things change”.
2nd-bottom Celtic are currently 15 points adrift of safety with 14 games left but 9 of those are at home. Even if Saturday’s game is called off, Bridge are due back at Bower Fold on Tuesday night to host AFC Telford. They and Avenue go into the weekend just 3 points above the bottom 3 and, during the run-in, Bridge have urged fans to repeat the excellent support they showed at Salford City last Saturday, when they were unfortunate to lose 1-0 to a side that’s 2nd in the table.