Peter Storrie can bear in mind visiting the London studio of Herzog & de Meuron, the famend Swiss architects, and being proven a hanging imaginative and prescient of Portsmouth’s future.
“It was something else,” he tells The Athletic. “They put it up on the screen for us and it certainly had the wow factor.”
This was 2007 and the formidable plans were for a brand new 36,000-capacity stadium on town’s docks. Storrie, then chief government, had accepted that Portsmouth would wish to go away Fratton Park, the membership’s dwelling since 1899, and a proposed relocation might hardly have been extra spectacular.
Positioned in between the Spinnaker Tower and the historic naval base, a £600million waterfront undertaking that would come with residences and eating places promised a transformational impression.
“This will be the most spectacular stadium, set against the backdrop of the harbour and the English Channel befitting the club’s history,“ said Storrie back in 2007, when Portsmouth were a top-half Premier League club.
They would win the FA Cup a year later when beating Cardiff City, too, but by that time plans for a new stadium had been all but scrapped. Opposition had come from local councillors and the British Royal Navy, who had “operational and security concerns” after selecting to base two tremendous plane carriers close by.
Portsmouth pivoted from the dockyards to a different waterfront website close by at Horsea Island, once more designed by Herzog & de Meuron with little expense spared. Once more it collapsed, this time in opposition to the backdrop of the worldwide monetary disaster of 2008. As such, Fratton Park, boisterous however restricted, stays the membership’s dwelling.
“The stadium on the docks was a fantastic design, really stunning,” Storrie says. “It would’ve been perfect. It was there on the waterfront. It would’ve been an iconic venue. One of the great stadiums if it had been built.
“Would it ever have got through planning? Probably not — but who knows? It was one of the great designs that never happened.”
And it’s a crowded discipline. For each spectacular stadium constructed by English golf equipment within the final 30 years, there was one other that didn’t get past the architects’ drawings or the fantasies of an proprietor.
Like Chelsea’s imaginative and prescient for Battersea Energy Station and the Gothic re-imagining of Stamford Bridge. Or Liverpool’s proposed transfer to a futuristic new dwelling in Stanley Park. Everton lived out three completely different initiatives at Kings Dock, Kirkby and Walton Corridor Park earlier than lastly planting a spade within the floor at Bramley-Moore Dock, website of their long-awaited new dwelling from the 2025-26 season.
Tottenham Hotspur had their very own plans to knock down and rebuild the Olympic Stadium earlier than West Ham United grew to become tenants in 2016, whereas as soon as upon a time Birmingham Metropolis had plans for a 55,000-seater stadium that would kind a part of the Birmingham Sports activities Village. Karren Brady, Birmingham’s managing director again in 2006, referred to as it “a once-in-a-lifetime regeneration project.” Or, because it turned out, not-in-this-lifetime.
That’s typical of the well-versed large promote, particularly when supporters are being requested to go away a historic dwelling. Mission what the longer term may appear like in all its animated glory and hope it marks step one on the journey.
Actions don’t at all times accompany the phrases. Whether or not by means of funding issues or supporter opposition, typically each, English football has an extended record of initiatives that have gone to the nice drafting board within the sky.
Leeds United were using the crest of a wave again within the spring of 2001. A run to the Champions League semi-finals, the place they were crushed 3-0 by Valencia, had emboldened the assumption that Leeds might set up themselves amongst English football’s elite and a part of the grand plan was a transfer away from Elland Highway.
A wasteland website was picked close to junction 45 of the A1(M) at Skelton and a brand new £40million, 50,000-capacity floor was proposed. Elland Highway, in the meantime, could be offered to the native council for an estimated £20million to assist fund it.
Peter Ridsdale, Leeds’ chairman, had a blunt message as they tried to maintain tempo with these on the high of the Premier League. “Doing nothing is not an option,” he warned in a letter to followers.
All supporters were requested if they might again a renovation of Elland Highway or a transfer to a brand new stadium throughout a session course of. “On the one hand there is the history and the memories that we all share, and on the other hand is the need to ensure that we offer future generations a world-class team and a world-class stadium,” mentioned Ridsdale.
Three months later it was introduced that 87.6 per cent of the votes forged had been in favour of leaving Elland Highway. “An overwhelming endorsement,” concluded Ridsdale, who outlined plans to search out sponsorship for the membership’s new dwelling.
The push to maneuver was not as universally common as Ridsdale had claimed after lower than half of poll papers were returned however these in opposition, the traditionalists eager to remain at Elland Highway, needn’t have frightened.
Leeds’ outlay of £77million on gamers contained in the earlier three lavish years caught up with them and inside three years of Ridsdale championing a transfer, it was a Championship membership as soon as extra. Skelton was quietly brushed underneath the carpet and 20 years later, with no significant restoration work accomplished, Elland Highway and its limitations stay a headache for others to inherit.
Funding — or a scarcity of it — sometimes turns into the insurmountable impediment in these grand stadium designs.
Establishing a brand new dwelling from scratch or rebuilding an present floor is the largest potential expenditure any membership can face and, as such, is reliant on enormous borrowings. The largest and greatest at the moment are £1billion initiatives.
Liverpool didn’t have to search out that a lot again in 2007 however even the touted £400million wanted to construct a 60,000-seater stadium in Stanley Park proved past former house owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Leaving Anfield behind had been a key thread to the guarantees of the U.S. businessmen, with Gillett pledging at his opening press convention that “the shovel needs to be in the ground in the next 60 days.”
The earlier 5 years, earlier than the arrival of Hicks and Gillett, had seen a variety of plans put ahead, with define planning permission authorised for a Stanley Park stadium way back to 2003.
Authentic plans were redesigned by Hicks and Gillett and revised once more after a goal to start work in the summertime of 2007 was missed, earlier than any tangible hope of a brand new stadium started to recede in 2008.
Like Portsmouth, the credit score crunch and house owners with restricted sources introduced the undertaking to a standstill.
“Our commitment to building a new world-class Liverpool Football Club stadium is undiminished,” mentioned Liverpool in an announcement. “Like many other major development projects in the UK and overseas we are affected by global market conditions. We will use this period productively and revisit the plans for the stadium to increase its capacity to 73,000 seats.”
The imaginative and prescient didn’t materialise, although. 12 months after 12 months there was no significant progress till Hicks and Gillett were changed by Fenway Sports activities Group, who confirmed their intention to as an alternative redevelop Anfield in 2012.
“It could have been brilliant but we have probably set ourselves back several years,” former chief government Ian Ayre mentioned in 2011. Liverpool will lastly get the 60,000-capacity stadium they’ve spent 20 years ready for when the brand new Anfield Highway Stand is totally opened by the top of January.
These years of uncertainty firstly of this century would usually see a contentious plan proposed. With Everton accepting the necessity to depart Goodison Park for 20 years or extra, a floor share between the 2 Merseyside golf equipment was touted on multiple event.
As a lot as £30million was promised from public funds in 2003 for a brand new super-stadium within the metropolis. The North West Growth Company proposed that Liverpool and Everton ought to share in a bid to regenerate the broader Anfield space and 6 years later, as England gathered collectively its push to host the 2018 World Cup. Conferences were even held with the then sports activities minister Richard Caborn.
The plans, although, were constantly met with opposition from the 2 rivals, each within the boardroom and amongst fan teams. Everton described it as “utter nonsense” the golf equipment ought to groundshare in 2009.
That was as a result of they’d different concepts. Massive ones. Unperturbed by the failed try to construct a brand new 50,000-seater stadium on the King’s Dock, now website of the Liverpool Echo Enviornment, by 2007 they were pushing forward with a transfer to a website in Kirkby, eight miles out of town centre on Liverpool’s northern edge.
It might kind a part of an unlimited retail park headed up by Tesco and the capability will increase were forecast to generate £6million extra per season. Promoting the naming rights for the stadium would earn the identical quantity once more.
Not that it ever went to plan. An opposition group, the Hold Everton In Our Metropolis Marketing campaign, was fashioned, whereas Liverpool Metropolis Council, who felt Everton mustn’t depart their boundaries, were strongly in opposition to the transfer. Chief Warren Bradley referred to as the proposed stadium in Kirkby “a cow shed in a small town”. They acquired their want by 2009, a interval of financial stress that damage the development trade, when the UK authorities blocked the proposed £400million joint growth.
Good issues are coming to those that have waited, although. After all of the false dawns and stadium designs that never were throughout 20 years, Everton will relocate to Bramley Moore-Dock in 18 months, an exquisite new stadium that will probably be one in every of 10 hosts for Euro 2028.
If Everton will quickly be a part of Liverpool in having the larger dwelling they at all times wished, others should not so lucky. Chelsea supporters proceed to attend on proposals that would see Stamford Bridge redeveloped or an extended affiliation with their dwelling floor ended by a transfer. The capability of 40,000 ceased to be ample way back.
Historical past tells us that. Chelsea’s earlier proprietor, Roman Abramovich, was keen to extend matchday revenues way back to 2012 when the membership submitted a proper provide to purchase Battersea Energy Station on the south financial institution of the Thames. The website alone was valued at £500million and given the Grade II listed standing of the previous electrical energy station, plans were unveiled that would see its 4 iconic chimneys integrated right into a design.
Designs were made public after Chelsea had been outbid by Malaysian property builders SP Setia and Sime Darby Property, regarded on the time as a method of making use of diplomatic strain.
“We firmly believe our proposals could address the unique challenges presented by the site,” mentioned Chelsea in an announcement. “The design would integrate the stadium with the power station in a sensitive, unique and powerful way, with all significant historical aspects of the Power Station to be retained.”
Not that it made a lot distinction. The spectacular restored website is now dwelling to residences, outlets, bars and eating places.
Chelsea didn’t stand nonetheless and, three years after their failed try to purchase Battersea Energy Station, had revealed beautiful designs for a brand new Stamford Bridge. Like Portsmouth’s docklands plans, Herzog & de Meuron were behind the drawings that would see Chelsea rehoused in a 60,000-capacity stadium by 2020. The hanging photos were mentioned to be “inspired by the design of Westminster Abbey” and quoted, on the time, as costing wherever between £500million and £1billion. Cathedrals, because it was likened to, didn’t come low cost in a closely populated space of the capital.
There were objections however broad help for the undertaking. Inside a 12 months, although, Abramovich had referred to as a halt to all of it. The crux of the issue? A visa.
Abramovich, again in the summertime of 2018, encountered delays over a UK visa after seeing his earlier one expire and an announcement launched by Chelsea mentioned it was the “current unfavourable investment climate” that had been the set off to suspending a Stamford Bridge redevelopment that would never be revived. The relaxation is an inglorious historical past for Abramovich, who was pressured to promote Chelsea in 2021 when sanctioned by the UK authorities following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The dream of a brand new dwelling has not died for Chelsea as new proprietor Todd Boehly prepares to share new plans in 2024 however there will probably be regrets that a stadium construct didn’t come sooner. Chelsea should make do with a stadium that homes 20,000 fewer supporters than the houses of London rivals, Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham. Matchday revenues have flatlined at Stamford Bridge and, as of final season, meant Tottenham had a £37million annual benefit by means of the turnstiles.
One other membership with sudden regrets are Newcastle United, who’re going by means of their very own session course of on the place to go subsequent. St James’ Park, capped at 52,000, has been offered out each week because the takeover led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund was accomplished in 2021.
Oh for one thing greater, just like the plans hatched in 1997. A planning software for a £90 million, 55,000-seater stadium on Fortress Leazes, half a mile from St James’ Park, was submitted. They included a retractable roof and the choice for capability to be elevated to 70,000.
“St James’ Park simply wasn’t big enough to cope with demand and the site itself had severe limitations,” says Sir John Corridor, the previous proprietor of Newcastle. “We needed a world-class stadium to offer us the best chance of sustained success.”
The plans, placed on public show, were dubbed the “San Siro of the North” in a nod to the shared dwelling of AC Milan and Inter Milan, and included a plan to transform St James’ Park into an indoor enviornment.
Followers backed the thought however others didn’t. A petition included 36,000 names opposed constructing on the City Moor and a public inquiry inflicting prolonged delays grew to become unavoidable as soon as English Heritage took an curiosity in Newcastle’s plans. By November 1997, the main target had as an alternative been turned to extending the capability of St James’ Park from 36,000 to its 52,000, as it’s at this time.
Fifteen or so miles to the south, rivals Sunderland had been by means of their collapsed bid by that level. That they had proposed constructing a “Wembley of the North” near the Nissan automotive manufacturing plant in 1992 and even integrated twin towers within the designs included in a postal referendum. “That was intentional on my part; I wanted it to look like Wembley,” mentioned former chairman Bob Murray.
The complicated was on account of value £75million and embody a 40,000-capacity stadium, 12,000-seater indoor enviornment and retail park. Such was their confidence, Sunderland even submitted a bid for it to be one in every of eight venues for Euro ’96. Then bang… EU funding they’d lobbied for in Brussels had been pulled.
“Just before the Euro ’96 venues were announced, I received a phone call, out of the blue, to inform me that Nissan had suddenly turned hostile towards the new stadium,” wrote Murray in his autobiography I’d Do it All Once more. “A call was made to 10 Downing Street and everything changed. Suddenly it was made abundantly clear it wasn’t going to happen.”
Sunderland as an alternative went with the Stadium of Gentle as their subsequent dwelling after Roker Park, transferring in 1997. Others haven’t been so lucky.
Like Luton City, who hope to be seeing out their last years at Kenilworth Highway. It’s virtually 30 years since former proprietor David Kohler shared his wacky plans for a 20,000 indoor enviornment dubbed the Kohlerdome. Alas, he discovered neither the funding nor the location, which tends to be an issue.
There are numerous others, too. Bristol Rovers have spent 20 years trying to find a contemporary new dwelling, as have Queens Park Rangers, who’ve hoped to construct a brand new stadium at close by Wormwood Scrubs. Blackpool (Whyndyke Farm), Carlisle United (Kingmoor Park), Southend United (Fossetts Farm) and Grimsby City (Peaks Parkway) are among the many numerous different golf equipment who’ve devised formidable plans but nonetheless haven’t moved.
Identical to Portsmouth. “It was very difficult to convert Fratton Park into a state-of-the-art stadium and that’s something the club needed to progress,” says Storrie, the previous chief government. “We had the fans pretty much onside but sadly it just didn’t happen.”
It was not the primary stadium undertaking to stay an architect’s imaginative and prescient and won’t be the final.
Prime picture: Portsmouth’s plans for a brand new stadium on the waterfront were unveiled in 2007 (Herzog & de Meuron)