Cherries stadium update

Cherries stadium update

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THE aim of having a new stadium ready by the summer of 2020 was “overly optimistic”, AFC Bournemouth’s board has admitted.

The club has said that the scheme required “a healthy financial strategy” but that “every penny”, plus additional funding, had been put into securing its Premier League position.

In a joint statement, its board and shareholders said they were unwilling to “risk what has been achieved to date” by moving forward with any development.

The announcement has sparked speculation amongst some fans that majority shareholder, the Russian businessman Maxim Demin, could be considering whether to sell his remaining stake in the club in the face of tense relations between Russia and the UK.

Plans for a new stadium were first announced by the club in December 2016 half way through its second season in the top division after being frustrated in attempts to buy its current ground back from London-based property firm Structadene which it was sold to in 2005.

It said it was left with “no option” but to look at moving out of the Vitality Stadium with chief executive Neill Blake saying that they would not be held to ransom over the price of purchasing the ground.

The club said a new stadium was “crucial” in meeting demands for tickets, with the current stadium being the smallest in the league.

In March this year the club said it was continuing to work with Bournemouth council on putting together a proposal which would see it redevelop the athletics centre at King’s Park.

And in June, it said that plans were in the pre-planning process and that the possibility of ‘safe-standing’ being included was being considered.

However, several recent meetings between the two parties have been cancelled, Cllr Phil Stanley-Watts said, and fans had raised concerns that the club was “kicking its plans into the long grass”.

On Thursday morning, the club’s board and shareholders released a joint statement admitting that plans for the new stadium to be ready by the summer of 2020 were “overly optimistic” and that developments would not happen without “a healthy financial strategy” in place.

It says that “every penny” of the financial rewards of Premier League football, as well as additional funding, had been put into securing the club’s top-flight status.

“Since being promoted to the Premier League in 2015, our manager, Eddie Howe, has been consistently backed every season in the transfer market, including a record outlay this summer,” the statement reads.

“The board acknowledge we were overly optimistic that a new stadium would be completed by the summer of 2020,” it adds.

“Any future developments will be undertaken around a healthy financial strategy that does not take away our ability to perform at our strongest levels on the pitch and risk what has been achieved to date.

“With regards to the developments, when we have a reliable timeframe we will make those facts known.”

It adds that the board is “working hard” to achieve fans’ and the club’s ambitions but that its vision “will take time, patience and the necessary financial resources to create”.