If you follow a football club, then you’ll know just how important to your identity the ground or stadium you play at is. Over and over again we've seen the loss of stadiums to the bulldozers, with little or no protection. In fact the same applies to rugby, cricket or other grounds and stadiums - big and small.
Our Social Value of Football research has shown just how important clubs - and by extension their stadiums - are to their local community. The stadium is the place that holds the memories of the fans, the team, the local community - often over many years.
In fact very often, we don't even know the basics: who owns the ground, let alone what their intentions are. And having the opportunity to save it for the community is something that has never existed before. Until now.
Now thanks to the Government’s Localism Act 2011 people living in England can request that a stadium, pub or other community amenity, even if it's privately owned, can be listed as an Asset of Community Value. This will mean that if it ever comes up for sale, communities will be able to gain extra time to bid for the ground or asset. Indeed, the criteria for being listed includes cultural, recreational and sporting interests, so stadia and other sports facilities are certainly eligible.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Eric Pickles himself has said about the importance of football stadiums:
“Football stadiums are not only the heart and soul of every team, they are rooted in and loved by the neighbourhoods that surround them.”
Read our guide to ACVs in our Community-Right-to-Bid (which the DCLG have themselves recommended.)
On the 13th May 2013, the Oxford United Supporters Trust, OxVox announced the first successful application of for an ACV had been made, when it was revealed that the Kassam Stadium had been successfully listed.
As Mark Sennett, Chair of OxVox, said at the time:
“This means United supporters will now never wake up one morning to read in the paper that the Stadium has been sold, with no recourse. The stadium is of huge local importance to the people of Oxfordshire, and the Club’s role is a source of huge community benefit and pride. Because of this listing, supporters and the Oxfordshire community will be able to play more of a role in its destiny."
Now more have joined them. Here's some of those grounds that supporters' trusts have successfully listed:
Old Trafford (Manchester United Supporters Trust), Anfield (Spirit of Shankly), Portman Road (Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust), The Valley (Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust), Valerie Park (Prescot Cables FC), Liberty Way (Nuneaton Town Supporters Cooperative), St Andrews (Blues (Birmingham City) Trust.
There are a number of other applications that have been submitted, from Trusts at all levels of the pyramid. We also curate the Our Home' Pinboard on Pinterest as a visual representation of the places that are so much more than just a place to watch a game.
After all Lowry’s painting of a football stadium currently has more protection than a real stadium, and now we can begin to address that.