I’ve been planning to sit down and write this little piece for a week or two now, specifically from around the time of the fan’s forum.
Ever since the change of chairman, I get the feeling that a move away from Sincil Bank is less likely. The rhetoric about it being crucial to our development has certainly faded a little, with the problems faced by Chesterfield an example of what can go wrong. In the past, their stadium move had been put forward as an example of what happens when things go right.
I’ve always been behind a move from the Bank, not because I want to leave our home, the place which I have spent so much of my life, but because I believed it was a necessity. I thought in order for the club to progress, a move from the Bank was more than overdue.
With the noises dying down recently, I have to wonder if perhaps the eagerness to get away was part of a Bob’s dream, but not so much something than Clive is keen on. Bob, an old school Imps fan, would have seen a stadium move as part of his legacy, part of him ushering in the new future at the Bank. it wouldn’t be his only legacy, the Cowley’s and National League promotion will certainly stand the test of time, but a move to a spanking new stadium?
Then there’s Clive, a softly spoken man of few words in the media. When he does speak, people listen. He was obviously a catalyst for attracting Danny and Nicky and other investment which has allowed us to push on. I wonder if perhaps Clive isn’t as committed to a move? He’s always said he would never do anything to put the club at financial risk, is the outlay on bricks and mortar beginning to look risky?
Lincoln is on the up, but retail is not and part of any plan is to have retail outlets and the like at the new ground. Is there enough uncertainty to scupper the move?
Or, is Clive so in tune with the fans and tradition, that he simply wants to make sure every possible way of staying put is explored?
What would we need to stay put? More seats is absolutely certain, we sell around 9,000 tickets at the moment to home and away fans and any increase is likely to come through promotion and increased away following. My feeling is we’re at our ceiling now, we could maybe shift 10,000 for certain games, but we’re not going to do that for Bury on a Tuesday night, as things stand. It might be that day-trippers are being put off coming because of seat availability, but that is a variable we can’t understand at present.
There’s space to build, that much is true. The St Andrews stand was always intended to be expandable should we need it and it could be extended towards the Stacey West. I’d think it unlikely that we knock the whole thing down and start again, but would building on to it be pushing a square peg into a round hole?
Then there’s the issue of access, both for vehicles and fans. We’re squeezed into a corner, pushed between the astroturf and the Sincil Drain, can we really get more cars into the area? I suppose the pitches could be ripped up, especially now they’re not used for training, but would we build car parks or extend that whole side of the ground and make it more accessible?
What about getting into and out of the ground? The whole area around Sincil Bank grinds to a halt on a match day, would we need to negotiate with the council about better access? Could anything be done alongside the drain heading to South Park?
What about toilets and refreshments too? The queues are big already and even once the caterers get things sorted, there’s still too few pouring points for the number of fans coming into the ground. There’s no rear concourse either, making half time a bit of a scramble despite the club’s best efforts.
There’s an awful lot of questions to be answered, but I suspect they are now being asked, rather than simply being filed under ‘unanswerable’ and filed away. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure whether it is a good thing or not. I would love nothing more than to stay put, to remain at the ground I’ve visited every weekend or so since I was needing help wiping my arse, but it has to be workable. It has to be more than simple tradition and emotion. It has to work as a viable source of income, not just on match day but every day.
Most of all, it has to be prepared to host League One football for the foreseeable future. At least.