Social media clamour continues to “do something” about the Blackfriars End. That noise chimed more loudly for Portsmouth with the League One club’s average away following being twice as large as the tickets available. I see no quick fix for our missing fourth side. More like a cross country mega-hurdle race.
Blackfriars Issue One: Lease first!
Extending our lease is priority number one. Hereford FC need a lease extension to enable them to tap into funding for projects such as replacing our faltering floodlighting. Our board must first demonstrate they are worthy guardians of the Street to their landlords to earn that extension. That the Supporters Trust has 50% of shares will help, our recent financial returns will definitely not. Guardians of the public purse are entitled to ask about our sustainability and ability to pay.
Blackfriars Issue Two: Who will listen?
No party has control of Herefordshire local authority. Helpful for democracy albeit with a downside it’s more difficult to draw up policy on anything unless a majority of parties agree. And worse, elections are due in May 2023 so short-termism and self-interest will dominate agendas for the next six months. In theory, any councillor could lose their seat in spring.
Blackfriars Issue Three. Why would they listen?
The largest sporting organisation in the county wants to expand and requires the local authority to find a third party to make that possible. Where’s the incentive for a long and fruitless search for a credible third party? What is the need? Where’s the incentive to get involved? Benefits to the football club are intangible, an inward-facing cosmetic improvement with the hope of encouraging more customers. Not an easy sell to hard-pressed public sector staff. “Your land overlooks ours and its tatty. We want you to arrange improvements.” Set against genuine emergencies like the homeless, adult social care and health for a body with limited resource, our request doesn’t look convincing,
Blackfriars Issue Four: Is development realistic?
Building anything during a recession is a risky business. More than ever, business cases are checked and funding sources treble-checked. With retail and hospitality struggling, the only realistic options for the Blackfriars are apartments for students and key workers. That’s as envisaged in the 2019 pre-covid housing development with a stand behind as featured in the Hereford Times.
Since then, a large student accommodation block opened in Station Approach with annual rent starts at £6,300. All sorts of difficult questions around how fast will Hereford University expand and during a recession, how many more students are willing to pay that much for a room liable to noise, vehicle and light pollution? In addition, this would be a tricky site to develop leading to additional expense and traffic congestion. More flack for the local authority.
Blackfriars Issue Five: Can HFC afford it?
Suppose a third party could envisage a profitable partnership. No-one will give us a stand. The local authority cannot use taxpayer money to benefit a private business. Hereford FC will have to pay for it. These are massive sums merely to improve an eyesore and slightly improve a capacity which, based on current recent history, is beneficial for 90 minutes every three years. The pre covid plan as featured in the Hereford Times costed a new stand at £2.5 million. That’s horrifying. It’s the add-ons that bump up the cost. Such as having to relocate the scoreboards, the mobile phone masts, floodlights and whatever else is tucked away. Securing a longer lease would open up grant options though the remaining portion that we’d have to raise ourselves would be well into six-figures. Answers on a postcard on how to pay that bill in our current position.
Sorry to share such a reality check. But being a Hereford supporter, setbacks and frustration come with the gig.
This article appears in the latest edition of Talking Bull – Issue 136 – OUT NOW!