We do have to leave Sincil Bank: Here’s why

One of the debates that split the room at last night’s fan’s forum was the plans to leave Sincil Bank at some time in the future. Whenever a football club leaves its ground there is consternation and much sentiment, we will be no different.

We’re the only ‘Bank’ in the Football League and our ground, like many that have already fallen, is steeped in history. In an ideal world I’d fight a move, I’m a believer in sentiment and history in football. Hell, half of my writing on here is looking back at seasons, players and matches of the past. A football club is defined by its history, players move, managers chance, fans come and go but history is the one thread weaving it all together.

The ground, sadly, is not. It is a physical place in which a football club plays and whilst we love Sincil Bank, the truth is that it is rapidly becoming unfit for purpose. Once upon a time a club could survive without the ground generating revenue, but such is the game today every commercial angle must be explored. I’m not going to expel the virtues of a new ground here though, I’m going to tell you why my spiritual home, the place where I’ve always felt I belong, is slowly becoming very hard to sustain.

First up, the new piece of news to me, the water coming into the ground. Before last night I didn’t realise there was a water issue, but those problems we have with toilets would only be exasperated if we increase the pressure on them. Our toilet facilities were fine with 2,500 or even 3,000 fans, but 7,000? 8,000? The demands on the facilities are increasing and we are unable to increase the facilities with them. The simple fact is we cannot install more toilets and sinks because utility provision won’t allow for it.

If we were to stay put, that would be one of the main areas we would need to improve. The facilities are simply not sufficient for the number of fans coming through the door. Those in Coop lower lament the fact they can’t buy a beer at half time, believe me many of us in Coop Upper feel the same. The footfall through the bar area is dangerously high, the scrum for the toilets isn’t always a nice thing to be involved in. There’s a bottle neck as several hundred fans push to get through the single doorway into the toilets. I know some feel hard done to that they can’t get in the bar themselves, but any more pressure on the area and we’d be in serious danger of a crush. We can’t even open the fire doors and rope an area off outside, because the Sincil Drain side of the ground is officially a road.

We found out last night that Sincil Bank must have the capability to be fully evacuated inside seven minutes. As things stand it takes more than that to leave the Coop Stand when the final whistle sounds. There might well be large spaces between the Stacey West and the Selentiy Stand, but simply filling it with temporary seating only increased the foot traffic around that area of the ground. Some people seem to think temporary seating is an easy thing to install, it’s not like a deck chair, you can’t just buy it, put it up and sit in it. There’s regulations, rules and of course safety to consider.

I’ve heard so much talk of ‘just knock the Selenity Stand down….” as if it was a simple task. What happens to the club in the year and a half it takes to build a new stand? Where is it run from? Where do the VIP members and sponsors go? Where does the board hold it’s meeting, tickets get sold, merchandise get sold, etc? How do we cope with a decreased attendance for two years, just as we’re experiencing 8,000+ every week for the first time since the early 1980’s? Whilst this work is being done, how easy do you think it would be to keep traffic flowing around the ground too? Just knocking a stand down is neither easy nor cheap and the implications of doing so are extensive.

Even traffic flow around the ground is less than ideal. Coaches coming around the ground cause an issue, one had to be brought through the fan zone the other evening. Cars come and go with pedestrians all around and there is an accident waiting to happen. I used to have a car parking spot long the back of the ground near the TP Suite and believe me, it is only sheer luck that nobody has been hurt leaving the ground. Traffic management is something closely monitored by safety groups and ours is a nightmare scenario. Even round by the main gate fans run the gauntlet to get across the road whilst cars come out of the ground. In truth, leaving the ground is absolute mayhem. the Stacey West car park has got better, but the bottle neck around the houses for a good half hour after matches is another real problem. I can leave the game before the final whistle and still be sat in my car waiting to leave Lincoln thirty minutes later. Okay, it might not sound like a major issue, but if we do climb the leagues how much more traffic can we expect?

Sincil Bank is creaking at the seams, each nook and cranny is being utilised as best it can be, but it simply no longer achieves the primary aims of a football ground. Do you know the executive boxes have one toilet upstairs for 18 boxes? Have you seen the tiny kitchen the wonderful staff use in the South Park stand? How they manage to produce the quality they do in such cramped conditions is beyond me. All around the ground, good people are making our wonderful ground work as best they can, but it is quickly running out of shelf life. The only two choices are renovation or a move, but renovation doesn’t change the situation around the ground, parking, traffic management and the movement of fans to and from games. With the fan zone, simply getting from the Sincil Drain to the club shop can be a push, and a new ground will take all of this into consideration.

What truly amuses me is the people saying we shouldn’t move are often the ones saying we shouldn’t have such large segregation, we should let all fans into the bar, we should have smoking areas, we should replace the PA and a host of other complaints. Sadly, these issues are only going to get worse as we get better. Yes, there is a danger the bubble will burst and we’ll be back down to 3,500 fans each week, but if that is the case there’s even more reason to have a ground generating money daily rather than just on match days.

I’m a sentimental fool, I love Sincil Bank, I ignored the cramped seats in the Coop meaning I’m never comfortable for ninety minutes. I make do with missing ten minutes of football to have a wee before it becomes an extreme sport. I eat before going into the ground, not because the food is so bad but because the queue is. I even gave up smoking for a short while instead of crave throughout half time. I have memories there that will never be matched, not just those from Macclesfield in 2017 or Wycombe in 1988, but days such as the one in 1990 against Gillingham which ninety nine percent of you will have forgotten. My granddad was presented with a ball by Gordon Hobson that day for his birthday, a ball I was given after he passed just two years later. You’ll have those personal memories too, nondescript matches that slip me by but remain with you because your granddad was there, your dad or your daughter was at her first game. Moving ground won’t erase those recollections or devalue them. Leaving Sincil bank is inevitable but it will never be the end of the stadium, it sounds very ‘new age’ but it will always live on in photos, books and in our memories. The current custodians of the club understand the importance of history and of the connection between club and fans. Of course there will be a tribute to Bill Stacey and Jim West. We’ll still have a view of the cathedral and we’ll still have a place to call home. Moving won’t be the end of the road for Lincoln City, merely the next step on  the journey.

When we left the John O’Gaunts ground in the early 1895, we did so because the club had been turfed out and needed a temporary home. For 123 years, that home has been Sincil Bank, but in less than a decade our tenure here will come to an end. Don’t be sad that it had gone, be happy that it happened. Cherish these final wonderful years in our ground and embrace the future. It’s the only way we can truly progress.

Don’t think that the club have taken this decision lightly, not one bit. Our chairman grew up on these terraces, other board members did too. We have the fans in place at the highest levels to ensure that if it were feasible, in any way, to remain on course with our growth model by staying put, we would do it. If it was financially viable to develop our ground, we would do it. When that final ball is kicked at Sincil Bank it will break my heart just as much as those who staunchly want to remain at the ground. Sadly, for the club’s longevity and financial future, the only choice is to move.

It is going to happen, I’m afraid it is inevitable. If you’re a ‘remainer’ you’re going to be sorely disappointed in a few years time. I take no pleasure in delivering this news, but I’m afraid we all have to face facts. The future is not in LN5, but it is looking stable and secure for our beloved football club. By moving grounds we may be leaving a place many of us consider to be a second home, but hopefully we are securing the club’s future for the next 100 years.

23 Comments

  1. Fine mutterings Gary as always one of the best independent blogs that should be recognised because of the dedication. Folk need to email news now to get this on their league 2 pages. The only other worth reading is vitals at times.

  2. As a Imps fan, I have seen the best and worst of times at Sincil Bank. Sadly i have been swayed to the fact that we a need a new home. The club needs to make more revenue to keep going and hopefully for LCFC to progress up the football league and i think we can. Hopefully the powers that be design the new ground with the future in mind and that we all can enjoy the journey together.

  3. I’m as sentimentally invested as anyone in Sincil Bank, but I think we all must agree that if we truly think about it, it’s not fit for purpose.

    As we are a part of what will hopefully be a new era for the club under the Cowleys, let’s all get behind and be a part of our continued redevelopment of the club and therefore the ground!

    Good read as always Sir.

  4. Stay at Sincil Bank, it’s problems are known and liveable with. The proposed new place has thinggs about it we know, like flooding and no roads and out of town, there will be things we don’t know, stay and they will be worse, stay where our history is please and trust what you know.

      • Get your fqcts right gary,from the bus station to the new ground the distance could be as much as 4 times the distance !

        • Never mentioned the bus station Roger. Please, if you wuestion my facts do make sure they’re facts. I said “from town” and I consider the Mailbox town.

        • Also, whilst we are talking facts, it is 17 minutes from the bus station to B&Q which is where the new ground will be. It is 7 minutes walk from Sincil Bank, so little over twice the distance. From the Stonebow, arguably ‘town’ both are 17 minute walks. These facts come from Google maps. 🖒

  5. Great article as ever Gary.
    This piece really clarifies why we have to move as the facilities at the ground are not only not fit for purpose but downright dangerous! There just enough toilets in the grounds and that was before we got the big crowds! I was upon the boxes for the Swindon game and one toilet for 200 people is a nightmare and its the same in the rest of the ground.
    Parking is hopeless now, thank God for free bus travel!
    We’ll all miss the place but if we want the club to keep on its upward motion then a move is the only way we can do this.

  6. Good piece here Gary. I particularly like the part rubbishing the idea of ‘just knocking down’ the Selenity stand – very concise on how much trouble that would cause! So long as the new stadium and all its facets are analysed and planned to the nth degree, the future is rosy (or red and white!)

  7. As ever Gary, succinct and to the point. I get fed up reading stupid comments about staying at Sincil Bank. These people have little or no business acumen and even less understanding of commercial business, h & s etc.60 years ago I first stood on the old Sincil Bank terrace with my grandad, in an ideal world I wish we could stay here and modernise the ground, but I know for all the reasons mentioned and more we have to move to progress. Why is that so difficult to understand?

  8. Excellent article. You hit the nail on the head. We have to move with the times, if we want to keep a football league club. its as simpl0e as that. I imagine safety regulations get upgraded every season. Just make do and mend is no longer an option. The only option is to move to a more 21st Century modern ground. Where everything is more user friendly. I used to be a West Banker in the late 60s/70s/80s. Several steps up from the half way line. Great times.Access to and from the ground then was a problem. So I imagine as described how bad it is now with greater crowds, traffic restrictions and safety. Your article covered every reason why a new ground in needed, I could not have agreed more.

  9. Gary it will be sad to leave and it will happen , I’m sure things can be put in place if the Sincil bank becomes a housing estate the names of roads can be after players and managers. Let’s get it right look at our neighbours Scunthorpe they moved in the 80’s and are also on about moving so clearly in my mind they got it wrong.

  10. I don’t think the bubble will burst while ever we have the Cowley!
    Gary, this article should surrounded in a gold frame and mounted in a prominent position in the new ground. It so captures all the relevant elements of the situation!
    I took my nephew to his first game at the Bank 20 years ago when he was 5. He is now 25 and both he, his brother. his mum, other family members and myself are avid, season ticket fans. So yes the memories are there but so is the desire to see the future developments of this great club. Very well done Gary!!

  11. I don’t know. My dad’s ashes were scattered behind the goal at the Stacey West end. I don’t want to see my dad become part of a shitty housing development, but at the same time I realise we could be the next Bournemouth and need at least 20k capacity to make that happen. So many memories of Sinny Bank. It’s where I grew up. I think my father would approve, but I would never reconcile the fact he’s not at every game any more.

  12. Add: I’ve found nothing on the internet that compels the club to be able to clear the Linpave in seven minutes. Surely such a requirement should be public knowledge?

  13. I reluctantly accept the need to move. The club need to be very careful to make sure that the Design team for the new stadium is capable of delivering a ground with character and atmosphere. This might cost a small amount extra upfront but will be peanuts in the lifetime of the project. God forbid we end up with the disaster that is the Hive! There are plenty of other cheap but far from cheerful examples. We need a new ground with identity that we can be proud of. With care this can be delivered with reasonable cost.

  14. Well said Gary if the board are telling us these are the facts we have to trust them after all they brought the Cowleys to Sincil Bank without them and Clive on board this discussion wouldn’t be happening.
    It would be dying a slow lingering death.
    Well Said once again !

  15. This article should end all debate about staying or leaving. Superb! I don’t know any ground that could be evacuated in 7 minutes though?! Forest Green maybe. But only because there are only several hundred fans.

  16. An excellent article. I have been a supporter since the early 50’s and can understand the proposals. Neither can I forget that Sincil Bank was regarded as having one of the best grounds in the country. My only concern is that we have good attendances and get promoted, the Cowley brothers leave and back down we go leaving a very large stadium three quarters empty. This was, in my opinion what happened when Graham Taylor did such a wonderful job, but due to lack of finances he was coaxed away. We smashed every record that year but after he left, we went straight down again. I will never support any other team but we must get our priorities right. When, not if we move get you sums right PLEASE. Very ardent supporter.

  17. If I had any doubts about a ground move they have been considerably lessened after reading your informative and thorough article Gary.Not quite sure what the capacity of any new stadium should be,as you don’t want to see a load of unused seats at games,but neither do you want the even worse scenario of people being unable to get in to see the games.Something like 15000 to 17500 would hopefully suffice.Yes,Sincil Bank will be sorely missed not least for the memories it holds,like our goalie Terry Carling returning my school cap to me,after I dropped it behind the goal at what was the Railway End way back in 1963,and two Simon Yeo goals at the same end v Scunthorpe in the 2003 Play Off.

  18. Excellent article.It’s the sheer volume of small details which reinforce the basic argument that the dear old Bank is past it and cannot be brought up to modern safety, comfort and business requirements.

    Its vital however that decisions on finance, location, infrastructure and design of the new ground are made wisely and informed by the mistakes and successes elsewhere, to give the Imps a new home in touch with its heritage, with character and atmosphere, with capacity and facilities to generate income to finance continued success on the pitch.

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