Thursday, 26 November 2015

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A vision for the future of Barrow


I WAS wondering what I could write about this week as it is a bit of a struggle in the close season when everyone is taking a well-earned rest.

I needn’t have worried, because during my nightly ritual of reading the Evening Mail on Thursday, there on page 48 were a couple of responses to my shared stadium column.

First of all, many thanks for your responses on the concept of ground-sharing and, although I obviously don’t agree with your opinions, at least you demonstrate your passion for the football club, which is to be applauded.

“Victorian” Vic’s letter was very funny and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

But I thought I would take this opportunity to respond to the points raised in Vic’s letter.

Vic lad, I hope your opinions are of the minority because it’s those opinions that make people like me do what we do and try and improve the standard of facilities in professional sport in the town, whether football or rugby.

My particular focus is on Barrow RLFC and helping realise the dream of Super League.

It may seem far away place at the moment, but the rugby league authorities are contemplating increasing the number of clubs in 2012 to possibly 20.

In order to be considered for entry, we must get it right on the pitch by finishing in a top-two position in National League One in one of the three seasons prior to application.

Off the pitch, we must get our infrastructure right and that includes the stadium.

The stadium must meet strict criteria including a capacity of 10,000 and at least 1,500 seats.

Based on current finances this is impossible to achieve and therefore we must explore all options, includes selling Craven Park and moving to a state-of-the-art stadium like the one being built in Leigh.

Vic suggests using Leigh as a ground-sharing example naive is – why? Look at the website – Leigh Sporting Village.

Ideally we would want to do this on our own, but we are not so naive to think we can.

We need a suitable developer, a suitable location, grants from the government and support from local business, big and small.

Doing this in partnership with Barrow AFC may make it easier to achieve.

I can assure you we will continue to explore all options and that includes general dialogue with our friends at Holker Street.

Whatever is agreed upon must be in the best interest of both clubs and we have stated on several occasions that we will not commit to anything unless it is in the best interest of Barrow RLFC and with the support of the supporters and debentures holders.

Barrow RLFC is unique in Rugby League circles in that it owns its own ground.

But, rather than being an advantage, it is very much a disadvantage as it costs a packet to maintain, particularly with greater emphasis on Health and Safety regulations and it will never be good enough for Super League.

What is the point of being asset rich and cash poor?

The money realised from any sale would wipe out the debts and could be spent on further team strengthening, partic-ularly paying the premium for the better players.

I’m sure Barrow AFC have similar issues.

You have got to find ways of utilising assets in order to progress and, in my opinion, selling Craven Park for the right price in return for a state-of-the-art stadium – not on the top of Black Combe, though the view would be great – is the only way forward.

In this modern age we should all be demanding a modern stadium with conference, corporate hospitality and retail facilities, a gym, adjacent floodlit training facilities, something that can be used for the whole community, not just the two clubs.

We are getting left behind as other clubs, in association with their respective councils are setting examples and I would suggest that if you share the same vision, get involved in some way and let’s get on with it.

We must continuously challenge the outdated, old-fashioned entrenched thinking espoused by Vic and others, who in the past have contributed significantly to the demise of both clubs by reducing the level of expectation, accepting mediocrity and being satisfied with survival.

If Vic’s views were to ever become the views of the majority I’m afraid I would be very worried about the future of both clubs, but thankfully I don’t think that will ever happen.

To Vic in particular, we will continue to rigorously explore all options, including going it alone.

We will continue our dialogue and build on the great relationship with the AFC directors because I believe our town deserves better.

Survival is not the name of the game, I’m sure both clubs can survive as they have done in the past.

This is about taking the clubs to another level and a new stadium is crucial to that plan.

So keep watching “blackbirds pulling worms out of your lawns rather than watch a game of rugby”.

Thanks for your non-support!





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