May 24, 2024

Peter Storrie can bear in mind visiting the London studio of Herzog & de Meuron, the famend Swiss architects, and being proven a placing imaginative and prescient of Portsmouth’s future.

“It was one thing else,” he tells The Athletic. “They put it up on the display screen for us and it actually had the wow issue.”

This was 2007 and the formidable plans had been for a brand new 36,000-capacity stadium on town’s docks. Storrie, then chief govt, had accepted that Portsmouth would want to go away Fratton Park, the membership’s dwelling since 1899, and a proposed relocation may hardly have been extra spectacular.

Situated in between the Spinnaker Tower and the historic naval base, a £600million waterfront mission that would come with flats and eating places promised a transformational affect.

“This would be the most spectacular stadium, set in opposition to the backdrop of the harbour and the English Channel befitting the membership’s historical past,“ stated Storrie again in 2007, when Portsmouth had been a top-half Premier League membership.

They’d win the FA Cup a yr later when beating Cardiff Metropolis, too, however by that point plans for a brand new stadium had been all however scrapped. Opposition had come from native councillors and the British Royal Navy, who had “operational and safety issues” 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.


Portsmouth’s plans at Horsea Island (Herzog & de Meuron)

“The stadium on the docks was a implausible design, actually beautiful,” Storrie says. “It could’ve been excellent. It was there on the waterfront. It could’ve been an iconic venue. One of many nice stadiums if it had been constructed.

“Would it not ever have gotten by planning? Most likely not — however who is aware of? It was one of many nice designs that by no means occurred.”

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 turned tenants in 2016, whereas as soon as upon a time Birmingham Metropolis had plans for a 55,000-seater stadium that may type 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 mission.” Or, because it turned out, not-in-this-lifetime.

That’s typical of the well-versed massive promote, particularly when supporters are being requested to go away a historic dwelling. Challenge what the long run may appear like in all its animated glory and hope it marks step one on the journey.

Actions don’t all the time accompany the phrases. Whether or not by funding issues or supporter opposition, typically each, English soccer has a protracted listing of initiatives which have gone to the nice drafting board within the sky.


Leeds United had been driving the crest of a wave again within the spring of 2001. A run to the Champions League semi-finals, the place they had been crushed 3-0 by Valencia, had emboldened the idea that Leeds may set up themselves amongst English soccer’s elite and a part of the grand plan was a transfer away from Elland Street.

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 Street, in the meantime, can be bought 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 prime of the Premier League. “Doing nothing is just not an possibility,” he warned in a letter to followers.

All supporters had been requested if they might again a renovation of Elland Street or a transfer to a brand new stadium throughout a session course of. “On the one hand there may be the historical past and the recollections that all of us share, and then again is the necessity to make sure that we provide future generations a world-class crew and a world-class stadium,” stated Ridsdale.

Three months later it was introduced that 87.6 per cent of the votes forged had been in favour of leaving Elland Street. “An awesome endorsement,” concluded Ridsdale, who outlined plans to seek out sponsorship for the membership’s new dwelling.


Elland Street has been largely untouched for years (Serena Taylor/Newcastle United by way of Getty Pictures)

The push to maneuver was not as universally standard as Ridsdale had claimed after lower than half of poll papers had been returned however these in opposition, the traditionalists eager to remain at Elland Street, needn’t have nervous.

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 Street and its limitations stay a headache for others to inherit.

Funding — or a scarcity of it — usually turns into the insurmountable impediment in these grand stadium designs.

Developing a brand new dwelling from scratch or rebuilding an current floor is the most important doable expenditure any membership can face and, as such, is reliant on big borrowings. The most important and finest are actually £1billion initiatives.

Liverpool didn’t have to seek 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 homeowners 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 must be within the floor within the subsequent 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.

Unique plans had been 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 homeowners with restricted sources introduced the mission to a standstill.

“Our dedication to constructing a brand new world-class Liverpool Soccer Membership stadium is undiminished,” stated Liverpool in an announcement. “Like many different main improvement initiatives within the UK and abroad we’re affected by international market situations. We are going to use this era productively and revisit the plans for the stadium to extend its capability to 73,000 seats.”

The imaginative and prescient didn’t materialise, although. 12 months after yr there was no significant progress till Hicks and Gillett had been changed by Fenway Sports activities Group, who confirmed their intention to as an alternative redevelop Anfield in 2012.

“It may have been good however we now have in all probability set ourselves again a number of years,” former chief govt Ian Ayre stated in 2011. Liverpool will lastly get the 60,000-capacity stadium they’ve spent 20 years ready for when the brand new Anfield Street Stand is absolutely opened by the top of January.

These years of uncertainty at the beginning of this century would commonly 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 a couple of 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 Improvement 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 had been even held with the then sports activities minister Richard Caborn.


Goodison and Anfield is separated by Stanley Park – plans to construct one stadium to accommodate them each didn’t go down properly (Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside by way of Getty Pictures)

The plans, although, had been persistently 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. Huge ones. Unperturbed by the failed try and construct a brand new 50,000-seater stadium on the King’s Dock, now website of the Liverpool Echo Area, by 2007 they had been pushing forward with a transfer to a website in Kirkby, eight miles out of town centre on Liverpool’s northern edge.

It could type a part of an infinite retail park headed up by Tesco and the capability will increase had been 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 shaped, whereas Liverpool Metropolis Council, who felt Everton mustn’t depart their boundaries, had been strongly in opposition to the transfer. Chief Warren Bradley referred to as the proposed stadium in Kirkby “a cow shed in a small city”. They bought their want by 2009, a interval of financial stress that damage the development business, when the UK authorities blocked the proposed £400million joint improvement.

Good issues are coming to those that have waited, although. After all of the false dawns and stadium designs that by no means had been throughout 20 years, Everton will relocate to Bramley Moore-Dock in 18 months, a beautiful new stadium that might be certainly one of 10 hosts for Euro 2028.


If Everton will quickly be a part of Liverpool in having the larger dwelling they all the time needed, others usually are not so lucky. Chelsea supporters proceed to attend on proposals that may see Stamford Bridge redeveloped or a protracted 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 location alone was valued at £500million and given the Grade II listed standing of the previous electrical energy station, plans had been unveiled that may see its 4 iconic chimneys integrated right into a design.


Chelsea needed to redevelop Battersea Energy Station (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Pictures)

Designs had been 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 consider our proposals may deal with the distinctive challenges introduced by the positioning,” stated Chelsea in an announcement. “The design would combine the stadium with the ability station in a delicate, distinctive and highly effective approach, with all vital historic facets of the Energy Station to be retained.”

Not that it made a lot distinction. The spectacular restored website is now dwelling to flats, retailers, 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 had been behind the drawings that may see Chelsea rehoused in a 60,000-capacity stadium by 2020. The placing photos had been stated to be “impressed 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 have been objections however broad help for the mission. Inside a yr, although, Abramovich had referred to as a halt to all of it. The crux of the issue? A visa.

chelsea planned stadium


This was a design for Chelsea’s new dwelling to be opened in 2023 (Herzog & de Meuron)

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 stated it was the “present unfavourable funding local weather” that had been the set off to suspending a Stamford Bridge redevelopment that may by no means be revived. The remainder 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 might 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 properties 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 the turnstiles.

One other membership with sudden regrets are Newcastle United, who’re going by their very own session course of on the place to go subsequent. St James’ Park, capped at 52,000, has been bought 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 Citadel 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.


A younger fan checks out the brand new stadium plans in 1997 (Tim McGuinness/Mirrorpix/Getty Pictures)

“St James’ Park merely wasn’t large enough to deal with demand and the positioning itself had extreme limitations,” says Sir John Corridor, the previous proprietor of Newcastle. “We would have liked a world-class stadium to supply us the very best probability of sustained success.”

The plans, placed on public show, had been 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 turned unavoidable as soon as English Heritage took an curiosity in Newcastle’s plans. By November 1997, the main focus had as an alternative been turned to extending the capability of St James’ Park from 36,000 to its 52,000, as it’s as we speak.

Fifteen or so miles to the south, rivals Sunderland had been by their collapsed bid by that time. They’d 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 half; I needed it to appear like Wembley,” stated former chairman Bob Murray.

The complicated was because of price £75million and embrace 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 certainly one of eight venues for Euro ’96. Then bang… EU funding they’d lobbied for in Brussels had been pulled.

“Simply earlier than the Euro ’96 venues had been introduced, I acquired a cellphone name, out of the blue, to tell me that Nissan had out of the blue turned hostile in the direction of the brand new stadium,” wrote Murray in his autobiography I’d Do it All Once more. “A name was made to 10 Downing Avenue and all the things modified. Immediately it was made abundantly clear it wasn’t going to occur.”

Sunderland as an alternative went with the Stadium of Gentle as their subsequent dwelling after Roker Park, shifting in 1997. Others haven’t been so lucky.

Like Luton City, who hope to be seeing out their ultimate years at Kenilworth Street. It’s nearly 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 positioning, which tends to be an issue.

There are numerous others, too. Bristol Rovers have spent 20 years looking for 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 troublesome to transform Fratton Park right into a state-of-the-art stadium and that’s one thing the membership wanted to progress,” says Storrie, the previous chief govt. “We had the followers just about onside however sadly it simply didn’t occur.”

It was not the primary stadium mission to stay an architect’s imaginative and prescient and won’t be the final.

High picture: Portsmouth’s plans for a brand new stadium on the waterfront had been unveiled in 2007 (Herzog & de Meuron)