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Tuesday 01 September 2009
Stadium update from the Oxford United programme

After home games we sometimes publish articles from the programme that provide news or information about the club and Trust and which haven't previously appeared on this site.

This linked feature updates fans on the challenges we face in preparing the stadium for life in the Football League.

Good afternoon and welcome to the fans, officials and players of Oxford United.

Earlier this week we held a meeting with an Inspector from the Football Licensing Authority, to talk about stadium requirements for the Football League. I know that might seem a bit presumptuous, but we have always tried to stay one step ahead with regard to ground grading requirements; if we hadn’t, we’d have been in a very difficult position today, given our rapid advance over the last two seasons.

It was a very constructive and useful meeting where we learned about several issues we hadn’t considered. The one thing that was no surprise was that we will have to spend quite a lot of money. While that news isn’t welcome, I regard it as the price of success.

We already knew we needed to install a barrier in the John Smith’s stand plus two new turnstiles, as well as widen the gap between the touchline and the ‘A-boards’ in front of the Paul Strank stand. We also have to improve our floodlights a little before the end of this season, to meet the requirements for Conference National games, but we will need to do it again when we are promoted into the Football League. On top of that, the Football League has just announced that floodlights must be improved even further by season 2013-14. So that leaves us wondering whether it is better to go the whole hog now, which probably means new floodlights, or to improve in stages. We’re waiting for quotes before deciding which approach to take.

Before we will be accepted into the League we must install a control room to manage safety within the ground. The room must be sited somewhere that allows sight of the entire stadium. We’ve been using the Press Box but we’re told it isn’t fit for purpose so we’ll have to build a new room. At present, we are considering putting it on top of the Tempest End toilets, as there is room there and phone cables links are close at hand. Safety requirements will also require us to install CCTV within the stadium which will, I’m sure, be greeted with misgivings by a fair number of fans.

About two months ago, the Football League announced a further increase in stadium requirements, including such matters as providing covered accommodation for visiting fans – we are ready for that, so we don’t need to do any further work. An internal change is a requirement to make dressing rooms bigger. With up to seven substitutes for some games nowadays, plus the entire array of support staff that accompany most teams, the League has decided that nearly double the current minimum space is needed. We think we can accommodate this with some careful planning but at least in this case teams have got until 2013 to get ready.

All these changes, plus the project to implement new turnstiles that I talked about in the pre-season programme, will soak up money and resources. And we have to balance the timing with the need to maximise the grants we can obtain – as a general rule our chances of getting a grant are much higher if we wait to implement changes until they are mandatory, rather than improving the stadium just because we feel we ought to.

There is a lot for us to absorb. For example, the guidance booklet on control rooms alone is over 50 pages long, while the ‘Green Book’ on stadium safety is 250 pages. But we have a highly committed team of volunteers who, I am sure, will see us through to a Football League compliant stadium. Then it will just be over to Terry……..

Enjoy the game.