AFC Alternative Fact: Police Scotland have approved the plans for Kingsford Stadium. In their application documents for their unwelcome Kingsford Stadium proposals, Aberdeen Football Club have made numerous references to what Police Scotland will do in relation to the traffic, policing and management of the stadium and events. From what AFC have communicated, you would expect that they have had detailed meetings with Police Scotland to agree all this? Right, you would think that? The Inconvenient Truth: The truth is, somewhat different. A statement released by Police Scotland, on 10th February states:
“As the proposed development for a new football stadium is in the very early stages, Police Scotland have no nominated officers designated as acting on behalf of the organisation for traffic and/or event management for this proposal. “Police Scotland have no officers acting on behalf of the organisation in relation to the Kingsford Stadium proposals? So, Aberdeen Football Club must surely be attempting to mislead local councillors, MSPs, MPs, supporters and the public with untrue statements such as “That the stadium plans have been approved by Police Scotland” – a statement made by AFC to Peter Chapman MSP and confirmed in correspondence between NKS and Mr Chapman. Mr Chapman has now contacted AFC and Police Scotland to discuss the validity of the club’s statements.
AFC Alternative Fact: The future of AFC is at risk if the Kingsford proposal is refused by Aberdeen City Council.
“According to Aberdeen’s major shareholder and chairman, Stewart Milne, Pittodrie is now dragging the club back into the mire. He warned this week that Aberdeen must move – and move soon – or else the club will find themselves “in a very serious situation”. June, 2005.
“If this bid fails and we can’t move, we face severe consequences for AFC. The negative impact to the region will be very substantial, and not only does the Club face a very bleak future, we also lose the opportunity to develop football in the region. The people of the region lose an opportunity to have a much needed world class community facility that not only plays a huge part in health and education, but also in attracting and anchoring people to the region” January 2011.
“Aberdeen vice-chairman George Yule has warned the club could go to the wall if the proposed move to a new £50m stadium plan fails”, January 2017.
The Inconvenient Truth: These are three very emotive quotes from AFC – it would seem the very future of AFC is doomed should they not get a new stadium. But wait a minute, this is not all it seems. The first quote is from June 2005, in an article for the Telegraph, the second is from when AFC spoke at the pre-determination hearing for the Loirston development. The third quote is from the Daily Record on 31st January 2017 – 12 years later than the first quote! The last time we looked AFC was still a thriving football club, 2nd top in the league, with a manager they attracted 2013 and have anchored since! AFC are now also debt free, and released annual accounts in December 2016 showing an increased turnover.
AFC even managed to afford to write off £2 million pounds worth of costs attributed to the Loirston development within their 2015-16 accounts – something which seemed to go unreported in the press. Hardly a club on the brink of Armageddon.
So don’t be fooled by the prophecies of doom should the club not move to Kingsford. We’ve heard it all before.[caption id="attachment_2663" align="aligncenter" width="665"] We’ve heard it all before…[/caption]
AFC Alternative Fact: The AWPR will provide easy access to the Kingsford site. The Inconvenient Truth: Stewart Milne said in May 2016 regarding the proposed site at Westhill that the “development of the AWPR will now provide easy access to the new site at Kingsford”. Easy access? Perhaps for some, but not for the majority of fans who will still need to come via the A944. How do we know this? From the figures AFC have provided in their application, where it details that for a 20,000 European match 11,895 will come from the city and the west. 500 away supporters – they won’t arrive via the AWPR. 7,605 fans coming from the North and South may well come via the AWPR, but then of course they will have to try and find somewhere to park, which is a whole other story. The numbers can be crunched various ways for different types of matches, but the end result is all the same. Most fans will arrive via the A944. And those that come on the AWPR will need to try and find somewhere to park, which will involve driving either east or west on the A944 to find a space. One interesting figure we found whilst researching this issue is that they have quoted a figure of 3,000 away fans attending matches with the Old Firm. Of late, the Old Firm have only been given around 2,000 tickets. While there will always be potential for AFC to increase ticket allocation to the Old Firm, particularly if AFC are not doing so well, one could think that AFC were deliberately using the higher figure to make it appear as if even more people will arrive via the AWPR.
AFC Alternative Fact: Pittodrie is not UEFA compliant. The Inconvenient Truth: UEFA have a central team that work around stadia – they also employ freelance staff to work in specific countries. These freelance staff inspect stadia and stadia concepts. In Scotland, the staff concerned have indicated that the pitch at Pittodrie is of the required size and that the stadium has a UEFA grading as a Category 4 stadium – this is the highest rating for a football stadium and other Category 4 stadia include: Camp Nou, Wembley Stadium, Stade de France etc. We understand there is no impending threat that this categorisation will be removed from Pittodrie. There is no impending threat that Aberdeen will be forced to play European Football in another city. The club have been claiming that Pittodrie is not UEFA compliant since 2004 but they’ve continued to play European games there for the last 13 years! Any statement that UEFA classification is a threat to the future of Pittodrie, is created by the club in an attempt to reinforce their narrative of moving no matter what.
AFC Alternative Fact: The (AFC Community) Trust cannot increase the scope of its work without dedicated facilities. The Inconvenient Truth: The AFCCT operates across Aberdeen. It’s outreach programmes are based in locations across Aberdeen. AFCCT is already expanding facilities at Pittodrie – it already has planning permission to build a multi-use facility and this new building will have classrooms, an open plan office and a reception. So, there are already plans in place to develop the community trust’s facilities without the need for a stadium at Kingsford. The trust is focused on working in the community – why would it be a good idea to take the Community Trust a distance of seven miles out of Aberdeen? Odd, isn’t it? Unless you wanted to use the charitable status of the community trust as a way of reducing the costs of building your stadium and facilities…and as a way of attracting funding (grants, lottery funding etc.) that a commercial company (Aberdeen Football Club) would not otherwise be eligible for?
AFC Alternative Fact: Westhill residents will require parking permits if within the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) The Inconvenient Truth: Yes BUT parking in Aberdeenshire parking is not decriminalised. This means that parking where you are not supposed to park is a criminal offence and that parking restrictions are enforced by the Police. This is the reason why Aberdeen Football Club have stated that Police Scotland will enforce any Controlled Parking Zone in Westhill. This is also a way for AFC to avoid all costs relating to the operation of the CPZ. There is no proposal to fund this scheme from AFC. So, the most likely way it would be funded is by payment from residents. There is no mechanism to gather funding from AFC (in Aberdeen City) and use this to operate a parking permit scheme (in Aberdeenshire). These concerns about parking permits and a consideration of the costs of decriminalising parking are considered in these notes of meetings held by Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council and AFC’s representatives (obtained under a Freedom of Information request). [caption id="attachment_2665" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Proposed CPZ (Green) and Urban Clearways (Pink)[/caption]
AFC Alternative Fact: This development will bring much needed Community Sports facilities for use by the communities of Westhill and Kingswells The Inconvenient Truth: Much has been said about the community and sports facilities that this development will bring. We have seen comments in support of the application such as ‘this will be great to keep the kids off the streets’ and ‘this will be of benefit to all the kids for generations to come’. So what is the truth about the community facilities? The truth is that within the plans there are 2 football pitches within the training grounds designated for “community’ use”. That’s it. And these won’t be free or necessarily easily accessible. Remember this is a commercial enterprise. And ‘the kids on the streets’ won’t be able to turn up for a kick-about. These pitches are most likely to be being hired out to amateur clubs across the City and Shire for the training of their elite players. And as for getting the kids off the streets? There are dozens of sports clubs in Westhill. Kids are kids; some choose swimming, rugby, martial arts, whilst some choose to hang around the shops. This is not unique to Westhill, and having a stadium with the best community facilities in the world wouldn’t change that. So whilst the words ‘ community’ and ‘sports’ conjure up images of there being a variety of sports on offer to the community there are only 2 football pitches for hire, and not just to the local community. If the developer had been serious about providing a real community sports development, these would be on the plans. They aren’t. And we know about developers who make great promises and don’t deliver. That is the inconvenient truth.