Fans say 'it won't be the same' if Nottingham Forest move from the City Ground

Some Nottingham Forest supporters fear the club will lose part of their footballing history and soul if they do eventually decide to relocate from their City Ground home on the banks of the River Trent. The Reds have played at their historic Trentside stadium since 1898, with the ground itself respected among football fans and viewed as one of the most scenic venues in the country.

But its future remains uncertain with the club hierarchy yet to reach an agreement with landowner Nottingham City Council over the stadium lease. The current lease has a limited time left on it and the city council are said to want to increase the yearly rent to £1 million from £250,000.

Forest's ambitious vision to redevelop the City Ground has also presented a number of other long-standing hurdles and challenges. A central part of the long-term vision for the City Ground is to increase the capacity of the Peter Taylor Stand by knocking it down and rebuilding it.

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Approval was given by Rushcliffe Borough Council in the summer of 2022, but work is yet to start as certain conditions need to be met - including the demolition and relocation of boathouses beside the River Trent.

This, in addition to the issues and complexities with the lease, has led the club to consider alternative options. Reds chairman Tom Cartledge is an an expert in architecture and commercial development, and is also known for running Handley House, the parent company of the world-renowned architects Benoy.

In a recent interview with The Athletic, he said that communication with the city council had not been forthcoming, and that the club were "progressing due diligence on different sites". Those sites include land in Toton - previously earmarked for HS2.

Some Reds supporters were sceptical about the possible relocation, saying they don't think the fabric of the club or atmosphere would be the same.

Dougie Williamson, 25, said: “I like the atmosphere itself; if they move somewhere else, I don’t think it would be the same. It's in a quite nice location. It's scenic in a way that fans have a good time coming here because it's by a river with nice places to walk.

Dougie Williamson pictured outside the City Ground in Nottingham
Dougie Williamson pictured outside the City Ground in Nottingham -Credit:Nottinghamshire Live

“Toton is a lot worse; I’m not just saying that because I live here, but this is such a central location.” He said there was "a lot of history with Forest being close to Notts County". "A lot of people associate the clubs being close so tourists will come here to see both grounds,” he said.

An anonymous Notts County supporter agreed, saying that “it's quite fun having the two clubs close together”. He added: “First and foremost I’m from Nottingham, so I would feel bad to see them go even though I don’t support them."

Hayden Walker, 20, said he'd be “very disappointed" if the Reds moved elsewhere. He said that the stadium has “got so much history", adding “it comes with its own atmosphere”.

Councillor Steve Battlemuch, himself a Reds season ticket holder, took to social media - X, formerly Twitter - to address the situation. He said it was not the city council that had caused the stall in talks. "All Forest fans want to concentrate on for the next 10 days is staying up," the Labour Wollaton West councillor on the city council wrote on Thursday (May 9).

A spokesperson for Nottingham City Council said: “We’re proud of Nottingham Forest’s history as two-time winners of the European Cup, and we recognise the positive attention, visitors and income this has brought to the city over the past five decades.

“Getting promoted back to the Premier League in 2022, with the subsequent celebrations in Old Market Square, will live long in fans’ memories. We’re very lucky to have the successful sporting clubs we do in Nottingham, and so it’s disappointing to hear that Forest might be looking to relocate.

“The City Ground lease has been discussed for a long time now and it’s important to say again that the council remains committed to finding a solution which works for both parties. Unfortunately, we’ve had little back from the club recently by way of negotiation – this is highly unusual in a property transaction.

“We’ve been very clear with Forest that the council is legally bound by the need to seek best value for taxpayers – no local authority can subsidise a Premier League football club. We’re seeking market rate for the site, nothing more, which is in line with our statutory requirements.

“The council is ready to continue negotiations, but we can only do that if Forest come back with meaningful comparable evidence on their valuation of the site, which has been repeatedly requested. At present, we’ve simply been told what the club is not prepared to pay without a constructive way forward being proposed.”

On the pitch, Nuno Espírito Santo's side is almost certain of Premiership survival after Luton failed to pick up a point at the weekend. Luton would have to win and make up a huge difference in goal difference if they are to survive. A point for Forest, or even avoiding a very heavy defeat, is likely to be enough.