Exeter City Football Club is to explore whether it should leave its St James Park home of more than a century and relocate elsewhere.
The Grecians have agreed to a feasibility study to examine the benefits and disadvantages of a potential move and what, if any, possible opportunities there are for a new stadium and sporting facility.
It is all part of Exeter City Council starting preparations for a new Local Plan which will guide developments over the next 20 years, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.
The club has played at St James Park since its formation in 1904 and recently signed a new lease to secure the land and ground, owned by the authority, for its use until 2046.
An Exeter City FC spokesperson said that the study was ‘not in any way a pre-cursor to a move’ but an ‘appropriate action by a responsible business to ensure we have considered all options’.
They added: “In the interest of total transparency both Club and Trust boards wish to inform our fans that we have jointly agreed to conduct a feasibility study around the benefits and disadvantages of moving to another ground.
“We are aware of opportunities that might arise through the emerging Exeter City Council Local Plan and wish to ensure that, should it be desirable, we place ourselves in an advantageous and informed position.
“The supporter survey, conducted in 2018, informed us that moving to a new stadium is an option the majority of Trust members and non-members would only consider as a last resort and we fully intend to honour that view.
“However, it is important to understand exactly what ground relocation would entail, in terms of cost, general benefit, but also how it protects the sustainability of our ethos and ownership model, which has kept us in such good shape these past 17 years.”
The spokesperson added: “We do wish to stress that this is not in any way a pre-cursor to a move.
“As Trust members will know, they alone will make this decision should a decision ever be necessary. We hope Trust members and supporters will view this work as an appropriate action by a responsible business to ensure we have considered all options around taking us forward.
“Further, we would like to reassure fans that a new 25-year lease on St James Park has just been agreed and an application for the ground to become an Asset of Community Value has been submitted to Exeter City Council.”
David Lee who led the project team on the redevelopment of St James Park, and who has recently stepped down from the Club Board, will oversee this work.
Exeter City Council CEO Karime Hassan said: “The city council has recently agreed a new 25-year lease for St James Park and has invested in the current ground with the development of the Stagecoach Stand.
“However, the council acknowledges the process to look at the long-term development needs of the city is just beginning and therefore it is sensible for the Club and Trust to get ahead of the Local Plan process and to satisfy themselves on the feasibility of alternative opportunities.
“The city council will be under pressure to make rapid progress with the Local Plan and therefore there is only a narrow window to examine strategic options.”
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