I read with much interest about the discussions that took place this week between Hereford Football Club and Herefordshire Council regarding future Blackfriars Street development.
It appears from the comments made that the Council are looking for proposals from the football club in respect of a potential “Club & Community Facility”. Exactly what that entails remains to be seen. Under previous chairman during the Hereford United era this would have included an up-to-date 1,600 all-seater grandstand. What next?
The conundrum remains, however, whether Hereford can delay developing the Blackfriars End until the time the club has reached the National League. In the current division attendances will never reach current capacity, and the majority of “away” followings inside Edgar Street are pretty minimal.
To succeed in the National League attendances may need to be closer to 3,000 than 2,000. Hereford may hit the 3,000 mark for local derbies and cup-ties, with other clubs rarely seeing anything much more than 1700 at best. Indeed many are significantly lower. Consequently the knock on benefit of away support within Edgar Street is fairly low, sometimes we see less than 50 turning up to support teams in the National League North. There are much bigger, and much better supported teams in the National League were Hereford to get there. In fact, we can easily accommodate any away support in the Len Weston stand and terracing, and has been the case since we reformed as Hereford FC in 2015.
Therefore, some might say why develop another stand or terracing at the Blackfriars End?
We don’t really need it based on current numbers of fans. The money could be spent on upgrading other aspects of the stadium.
Wrexham have still to refurbish one end of their ground and they are a high flying National League Club but have sufficient accommodation for their present level. We could accommodate almost 5000 at Edgar Street and would not expect gates to reach that level even in the National League.
On rare occasions such as a game in the FA Cup against a high flying League side we could attract a higher gate than we can currently have in our stadium. This is not going to happen too often and a temporary stand could suffice for one off games such as the cup ties.
So to justify expenditure at Blackfriars End it requires some income generating venture incorporated at that end of the ground. One would expect any venture would relate to a fitness regime for the community or something the community can actively use throughout the week. This may promote interest from outside partners in the community, but ultimately it’s in the hands of the local Council who own the ground.
As a stadium it is rather sad to witness a run down terrace at that end of the ground. Oxford United have a three sided ground in use with the one end appearing to be used as part of a car park. However, they are a League One club not a National North club.
Our main priority must surely be to use as much readily available finance on securing a squad of players who can challenge the best in our league and ensuring basic facilities are of a high enough standard to be acceptable to us. This includes the upgrading of our present set of floodlights.
Hopefully all interested partners will sit down together and thrash out something acceptable to all.
As fans of the club it would be great to see some plan in mind on how we will move forward on this issue and end the period of stagnation. I am sure development of the stadium would give a fresh impetus to the footballing side of things and encourage players to look at us in a better light.
We have to hope that genuine progress is being made both on and off the field.
Steve Hughes – Halesowen Bull