How Much Of An Impact Does Moving Stadium Have? Part Two: The Fans’ View

Following West Ham’s slow start to life at the London Stadium, last month I began my investigation into the effect that moving stadiums has on the performance of teams. The most recent five teams to switch grounds – Rotherham, Brighton, Morecambe, Chesterfield and Cardiff – provided my case studies, and I looked at the stats to see whether they had improved since upping sticks. The conclusion was that generally it had been very beneficial, with five promotions between them and another imminent. Only Morecambe’s move to the Globe Arena didn’t seem to have ‘worked’, so to speak.

But do the stats tell the full story? In part two, I’ve contacted fans of Rotherham, Brighton and Cardiff and found out whether their performances have actually been helped by the stadium move, whether the switch has beneficial for the club in general, and how well the fans have adapted to their new home. Many thanks to all those who contributed and provided some great insight!

Rotherham – Jonathan Veal, author of Millers’ books Impossible Dream and Reliving The Dream (@jonathandveal83)

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Rotherham have achieved two promotions since moving to the New York Stadium – has this had anything to do with the switch in grounds or do you think the club was progressing that way anyway?

It wasn’t a coincidence that two promotions came in the club’s first two seasons at New York Stadium. The team had been floundering in League Two and were not helped by their stay at Don Valley Stadium, which negated any home advantage. Four years in League Two at Don Valley and just one play-off campaign, two seasons in a new stadium and two promotions!

On the whole, has the stadium move been beneficial for the club?

Absolutely. Rotherham’s move to a new stadium was perhaps different to other clubs as it marked a return home after playing in another city for four years. It restored their identity, their presence in the town and gave them a home after playing at an athletics stadium in Sheffield and having a club shop run out of some offices on an industrial estate. On the pitch it has helped the club to two promotions and two years of survival in the Championship, they finally had some home advantage again. Off the field there is an increased revenue as the facilities are used during the week, this could improve even further as there are units in the stadium that are available to let.

How did fans adapt to the new stadium?

They loved it and still do. After four years of exile in Sheffield they finally had a stadium of their own in their own town. The location is handily placed, meaning they can walk to it from the town centre.

Brighton & Hove Albion – Scott from We Are Brighton, a Seagulls fansite (@wearebrighton)

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You’ve finished in the Championship top six in three of your five seasons at the AMEX – has this had anything to do with the switch in grounds or do you think the club was progressing that way anyway?

It is 100% down to the move to the Amex. There is no way that a club playing at a converted athletics track that held just 9,000 people could challenge for promotion to the Premier League on a regular basis as Brighton now do. It was something of a miracle that we actually managed to spend three seasons in the Championship while at Withdean and each of those was an almighty struggle to survive in the division. Had our chairman Tony Bloom not funded the building of the stadium then there is a strong chance we wouldn’t even have a club to support, such was the way the club haemorrhaged money with hardly any match day income and the worst ground in the Football League. Withdean was only ever meant to be a “temporary” measure, but due to the drawn out planning process and a lot of NIMBYism, ended up being home for 12 years.

On the whole, has the stadium move been beneficial for the club?

Massively. While we are still losing a lot of money – as every club at this level seems to do – at least now we have increased revenue from both match days and all the other events that the stadium can host. In terms of fans, we averaged about 6,000 during our time at Withdean and now we are getting nearly five times that on a regular basis. Yes, a lot of those are “plastics” who support Premier League teams first and see Brighton as their second side. But they bring their kids along who are fully fledged Brighton supporters. You would never want to take your kid to a ground with no roof and stands miles back from the pitch in the depth of winter but with the facilities at The Amex that is now something you can do. The most striking thing since we moved in in 2011 has been that if you now walk around the city centre you see more Brighton shirts than Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea. A decade ago that would have been unthinkable.

How did fans adapt to the new stadium?

It took a bit of getting used to. A whole generation of supporters had never seen anything like watching Brighton in front of crowds of 25,000. The Amex is quite unique in that it relies on a vast majority of people getting there via public transport, and that is largely through just one station at Falmer. There were always going to be teething problems in that regard but once the first season was out of the way they were sorted. There are still things that could be improved. The only fan bar at the ground resembles a cheap airport lounge and the atmosphere isn’t that great unless it is a really big game. But it does feel like home and Lord knows we waited long enough for one.

Cardiff City – Dan Lewis, South Wales based reporter for SportsMole and Goal (@Daniel_Lewis92)

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In the first few seasons after moving to the new stadium, you continually finished in the top six before eventually getting promoted. Did this have anything do with the switch of grounds and more fans?

The move to a new stadium coincided with one of the brightest spells in the club’s history. It might be true that City had a habit of falling just short in the final years at Ninian Park, particularly in the final season when somehow missing out on the play-offs altogether when for so long automatic promotion looked to be on the cards, but how much the move a stone’s throw away had to do with us finally getting over the line is hard to say. It was certainly exciting at the time, even if some supporters – namely those who had been around for a few decades and more – found it tough to adapt to the new surroundings. The results in that maiden campaign at the new ground were largely positive, but the quality of players arriving did not change all that much, in truth. I’d say it was more to do with a collective belief and a range of other factors all coming together, although there is no denying that a new state-of-the-art venue and custom-built training complex further up the road helped in the following years; players often citing the facilities as a key reason behind why they joined. So while more fans in the ground and the odd electric atmosphere would have helped at times, I do not think it was necessarily the key reason behind our fortunes changing at the time.

On the whole has the stadium move been beneficial for the club?

In short: Yes. When changing grounds a lot of fans can become a little nostalgic when looking back, but there is no denying that if you are to move on and sustain success then improving things off the field is often key. Without actually seeing the figures, it is clear that revenue will have increased as a result of those early seasons at the CCS – less so in recent years following some largely disappointing football. It has also attracted the Wales national team, who have now made the ground their official home, while the Women’s Champions League final will be staged there later this year – another big coup not just for the city but for the club, too. Again, this is not to say that Cardiff would not have enjoyed success had they remained at their home of 99 years, Ninian Park, but I would sure as hell rather be driving a new Ferrari than a clapped-out old Fiesta.

How did fans adapt to the new stadium?

The transition was not as smooth as it perhaps could have been due to the terrible end to our final season at Ninian Park, as touched upon a little earlier. Many supporters leaving the ground for the final time expected to be back for the play-offs a couple of weeks later, yet we ultimately slipped out of the top six and never got the chance to say goodbye for one last time. A few flyaway footballs, a cheap flamethrower machine and the odd bit of ticker tape, it was far from the send-off it deserved. That said, once the 2009-10 campaign go under way City began in style, racking up a few home wins on the bounce in a run that included a big opening-game victory over Scunthorpe United. That’s the thing – win games and fans will be happy; they will wax lyrical about how amazing this new ground is and wonder why it had taken so long to move home. Lose games, al la West Ham United, and all of a sudden every last fault will be magnified. Cardiff were lucky in a sense that there was spare ground to build on within metres of Ninian Park, meaning no disruption in terms of matchday routine, so once the wins arrived the CCS soon felt like home. For some Ninian Park will never be replaced – particularly in terms of the closeness to the pitch and the atmosphere in the famous Grange End – but the Cardiff City Stadium has also had its moments and, as witnessed at the odd play-off and cup game there, it can more than match the old ground on its day.


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