What we know about Nottingham Forest's City Ground future as council talks are revealed

Nottingham Forest's City Ground
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

Nottingham Forest's future at the City Ground continues to be uncertain amid ongoing talks with Nottingham City Council.

The club are in dispute with the council - who own the land where the stadium is situated - over rent and a new lease. Talks between the two parties have stalled, leading to a standoff.

As a result, the Reds are prepared to consider relocating to a new site and building a new 50,000-seater stadium. Below, we take a look at the story so far.

Council statement

The council released a short statement in early June confirming that talks were being held with the club about what the future might hold: "Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Forest continue to work together regarding the future of the City Ground.

"Constructive discussions are taking place on a confidential basis. Both the Council and Nottingham Forest will make a statement when these are complete, and we will not be making any further comment until then."

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Man City plan?

The existing lease on the City Ground site has a limited time left on it and talks about a new 250-year one have hit a stalemate. The council are said to want to increase the rent to £1 million from £250,000. One of the potential sites Forest have looked at as an alternative is Toton, at a location once slated for the now-scrapped HS2 project and on land owned by Nottinghamshire County Council.

“That (Toton) is one of several potential spots. It’s not as easy as to say, ‘Here’s a piece of land, go and build a stadium’. There are highways, transport and connectivity issues. But it’s fair to say we are progressing due diligence on different sites,” Reds chairman told The Athletic.

That negotiations are said to have fallen through over a deal to buy land off the A52 for a new training ground has only added to the club’s thinking. Cartledge says the club are weighing up whether to follow in the footsteps of Manchester City and have a stadium and training ground on the same complex.

“The terms on that (training ground) project are prohibiting us, but other things have come forward that have given us time to think,” Cartledge explained. “Where do we want to be? Where are those campuses where we can try to put all of this together in the way Manchester City have done?”

Council 'blocker'

Cartledge had already admitted the club were prepared to consider relocating to a new stadium rather than redeveloping the City Ground. He told the Nottingham Post in March: "The city came back this this week with some revised terms which seemingly have gone backwards, so it's making it even more difficult. I think the most important thing is that the football club is able to achieve its ambitions on and off the football field. To do that at the City Ground is challenging, given the size of the capacity and what we want to achieve.

"The city council is a blocker at the moment to that and there has been no change in the position since we spoke about it three weeks ago. I think there is still a perception in their mind that there is more rent that should be paid on this site if we bring alternative uses onto the site and they're reflecting that in their heads of terms.

"If we bring residential onto the site, they want to see further uplifts. The misunderstanding is that the residential components are simply here to fund the redevelopment of the ground rather than to make profit for the ownership or other parties."

Further reading: You can read the full story of that here

Nottingham City Council own the land where Forest have played since 1898. However, the existing lease has a limited time left on it and talks about extending the lease have hit something of a stalemate. The Reds had first announced plans to redevelop the City Ground in 2019.

Multi-million-pound project

When the club's plans for the multi-million pound project to overhaul the ground were first announced almost five years ago, the designs involved increasing capacity to roughly 38,000. The redevelopment of the Peter Taylor Stand was seen as phase one of the scheme, with an extension for the Bridgford Stand also planned. Forest planned to knock down and rebuild the Peter Taylor Stand and increase its capacity from 5,000 to 10,000 seats.

Plans took a major step forward in 2022 when Rushcliffe Borough Council finally give approval for the scheme to go ahead. However, amid various obstacles and the standoff with the council, no work has taken place.

An article in The Athletic outlined how revised plans would see the City Ground capacity increased to 40,000. That would come from extending the Bridgford Stand to incorporate an additional 5,000 seats, to go with the 10,000 planned for the Peter Taylor Stand. It was said owner Evangelos Marinakis would "ideally" like to have the two redeveloped stands completed by the end of 2027.

Marinakis' commitment

Reds' owner Evangelos Marinakis has previously demonstrated his commitment to the City Ground redevelopment project. In an open letter to supporters in September last year, he said: “As the world-famous City Ground marks its 125th anniversary this week, know that we also have great plans for the future of our historic home on the banks of the Trent.

“In welcoming Tom Cartledge as our new Chairman, we now have a lifelong Forest fan at the helm, which will only serve to strengthen the connection between the club and supporters. His arrival will also reignite plans to redevelop our famous home. We are committed to retaining the soul of the stadium and its place in our history, whilst expanding it to create a modern venue commensurate with our bold ambitions. First and foremost, that means one capable of accommodating a greater number of supporters so that more fans can attend our games and the next generation of the Forest faithful can feel truly part of the future we are creating here."

Fan frustration

Chairman Cartledge has said he understands fans’ frustrations over the delay to Forest’s City Ground redevelopment project. The club chairman has been involved with the project since its early stages.

“Every conversation I’ve always had with the ownership is that the City Ground is our home to stay in,” he previously said in a Q&A with the Nottingham Forest Supporters’ Trust. “We’re here to stay. We’ve been here 125 years, we have no intention of finding locations to move to. The City Ground is our forever home.

“We’ve got to improve it, though. That’s the critical part.

“If you wind the clock back, we started that programme three or four years ago. I was involved from a design perspective by looking at the Peter Taylor Stand. At the time we didn’t understand that Covid-19 was coming around the corner and the economic challenges and everything. The noise that was created at the start, we weren’t able to keep pace with that and deliver the stand in line with the fans’ expectations.

“There has been a lag time, which has frustrated people. I understand that.

“Since I joined (as chairman) a couple of months ago, we have accelerated the pace. People will ask what that means, it means a lot more meetings, a lot more conversations about how we build the stand and working with the local authorities. We’ve got a brilliant relationship with Rushcliffe (Council), who I give huge credit to in terms of how they have supported us on accelerating again, getting the final details across the line.

“This is a significant infrastructure project and it comes with a lot of complexity. That takes time to manage and sort. But I am encouraged that in the last month or two we’ve got significant progress to be able to start to imagine the dates to start the redevelopment.

“What does that redevelopment mean? It means the removal of this stand, and that of course causes a lot of challenges with relocating fans, relocating media, relocating TV gantries and everything else.

“It’s not a quick fix where you could say, OK let’s start at the end of this season or something. It will take time.

“People will say you are being noncommittal on dates. But you have to acknowledge there’s a lot of moving parts to all those conversations I’ve just had about fans and other things we need to move and accommodate within the ground alongside the safety piece. It’s a limited site, there’s not a lot of land around it for building compounds and other things.

“It is going to take a little bit of time to get a date confirmed for when we start. We will talk openly about that with fans when we can.

“But the end game of this is that the stand will develop another 5,000 seats - a combination of seats that people might want to relocate into, different levels and tiers of seating, but an opportunity for an additional 5,000 people to come and watch Premier League football at the City Ground is the intention.”

Talks stall

As talks with the council stalled, Cartledge told the BBC: "We find ourselves in a position where for the first time we're having to consider whether the future is going to be away from the City Ground. In the future, football clubs' wage bills are going to be very heavily linked to revenue. If we can't grow the revenue, there is a realistic chance we cannot achieve our objectives and grow the playing side and give the manager the resources he needs.

"Unless we start to see some significant progress, it is now having to be a realistic discussion point as to look elsewhere. I'm frustrated, the owner (Evangelos Marinakis) is frustrated, because what he wants to do is give back to what he promised the people of Forest which is growth on and off the field and not to be able to do that is tough."

A spokesperson for Nottingham City Council said: "We know Forest's importance to our city and are extremely proud of their recent success – as we are with other sporting clubs like Notts County, the Panthers and Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. We also have a statutory duty to ensure best value for taxpayers in finding an agreement which works for both the local authority and the club.

"The council remains committed to further negotiations to find the best way forward and has offered to continue dialogue. We understand Forest's need for a swift resolution and their ambition for expansion which will bring benefit to the area, and will work with them on a solution which meets their aims and our statutory responsibilities."

Council leader speaks out

Nottingham City Council’s leader wants Forest to stay at the City Ground. "We think the Trent Bridge area is the best place for the club to remain and we will work with them to achieve a settlement that allows that to happen,” Nottingham City Council ’s leader David Mellen told the BBC. "We're not ready to give up talking or end negotiations and whether that's with the chairman or the owner, we'll do what is necessary.”

Fans' views

The Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust contacted members to ask for their views on the redevelopment and the possibility of the club relocating. A piece on the Trust's website said: "While not a quantitative survey, the substantial amount of member feedback (to date) was analysed and opinion and currently breaks down into three different general viewpoints: 39% of members do not want to move to new ground in an ideal world, but would reluctantly accept it if it was not possible to redevelop the current site; 30% of members do not want to move away from the City Ground under any circumstances; 30% of members see moving to a new ground as the best option for the club.

"In addition, in the comments, members told us: 18% of members expressed concerns about the economic effects on the local area if Forest were to relocate; 15% of members questioned whether the increase in the rent or purchasing the lease was a significant barrier to the club redeveloping the City Ground; 15% of members said they concerned that a new ground would be “soulless”; 15% of members expressed general concerns about the current infrastructure and facilities at the City Ground; 15% of members remarked that there were financial benefits to the club relocating."

A Trust spokesperson said: "It should be pointed out that these findings are not from a quantitative survey, but derived from analysis of the many emails sent in by Trust members over the last few days. A survey will follow soon.

"It is clear that those opposed to moving hold the strongest views and many more want to see all options considered before any move. It also should be pointed out that Trust members may not reflect the whole fanbase's opinion and other groups and demographics may hold alternative views.

"While there is unlikely to be any consensus amongst our members, we'll continue to share the various viewpoints with the club and raise the important questions being asked via our dialogue and the new Fan Advisory Board of which we hold the inaugural chair position."

New stadium boost

Nottinghamshire County Council has confirmed it would be “more than happy” to “explore options” for a new stadium with Forest if the Reds decide to leave the City Ground. Suggesting land near Toton as an alternative to the City Ground, Keith Girling, the county council's cabinet member for economic development, told the BBC: "We'd be more than happy to explore options with Forest, as with any business or developer.

"We recognise the value of them to the local economy. Hypothetically, if that land at Toton is suitable, of course we'd be interested."

Forest told site for new stadium would 'far surpass' City Ground

Ashfield Independent councillor David Martin told the BBC: "It's clear that as a county council we need to reach out to the club who are an economic powerhouse for our county. Toton already has the infrastructure including a tram stop and railway station. Any new stadium at Toton will far surpass the current capacity of the City Ground. If Nottinghamshire County Council were serious about helping the club expand - then exploring options at this stage is eminently sensible and would only be a last resort."

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