Crawley Town hold early talks to build a new home

Reds currently play at the council-owned Broadfield Stadium, renamed the Checkatrade.com Stadium last September in a five-year naming rights deal. Below CEO Michael Dunford and manager John Gregory
Reds currently play at the council-owned Broadfield Stadium, renamed the Checkatrade.com Stadium last September in a five-year naming rights deal. Below CEO Michael Dunford and manager John Gregory

Crawley Town chiefs have been in preliminary talks about building a brand new stadium for the club, the Crawley Observer can exclusively reveal.

But Reds fans hoping for a plush new home similar to the one recently built by Rotherham United could be in for a long wait.

Michael Dunford and John Gregory

Michael Dunford and John Gregory

While chief executive Michael Dunford admitted boardroom discussions had taken place, he was quick to stress that no contact had been made with Crawley Borough Council and no site had yet been identified.

The talks are still at a very early and informal stage and multi-million pound investment would need to be found to bankroll the exciting venture.

Reds currently play their home matches at the council-owned Checkatrade.com Stadium after moving from Town Mead, their home for 48 years, in 1997.

The capacity is close to 6,000 and there have been long-standing problems with the pitch, not helped by the deluge of rain which had seen two matches in January postponed, against Wolves and then last Saturday against Stevenage.

“I would be lying if I said it’s not something we are considering but I must stress that we won’t be moving into a new stadium any time soon,” Mr Dunford told us on Tuesday.

“I must stress that no discussions have yet been held with the Council and we have not reached the position of trying to identify a new site. We have a very good relationship with the Council, who built our current stadium for us, they would be the first ones to know (of any plans).

“It’s only sensible that we look at the overall financial stability of the club going forward. As part of that we will explore whether the current ground can be expanded upon, and I don’t believe it can, as well as looking at the possibility of an alternative site.”

Mr Dunford used the example of Sussex neighbours Brighton & Hove Albion, who finally moved into their £93m, 30,000 capacity Amex Stadium in 2011 after more than a decade of trying to relocate, to highlight how long a project of this scale can take.

Planning permission alone can be troublesome, as non-league neighbours Horsham have found in their continued hopes of erecting a new ground.

Crawley recently played Rotherham at their plush home the New York Stadium, which cost £20m to build and seats 12,000 people.

Crawley Town have been up for sale since March 2013, and with little new developments on that front Mr Dunford said it was important the Board continue to plan for the future.

He said: “People may question the merits of moving grounds when you only attract a crowd of 3,500 but it’s paramount we safeguard the financial future of the club by becoming self-sustainable.”

Crawley Town only became a Football League club for the first time in 2011 off the field are still trying to catch up.

Welcoming the news, current Reds manager John Gregory said securing a new stadium of their own would help him take the club to yet another new level.

“It’s us not wanting to stand still and this is the ambitious Board of Directors we have,” Gregory said.

“They’ve done unbelievable to get us into this situation of playing League One football and we want to keep moving forward.

“We are trying to build a team that is good enough to take us into the Championship one day and we would love to be able to be playing in a super-sized, all mod con stadium, hopefully with a new pitch.”

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