Nottingham Forest's possible City Ground exit would be 'devastating' for businesses

Businesses around Nottingham Forest's City Ground have decried "devastating" plans to leave its historic home as "selling the soul" of the club and warned of its consequences. Evangelos Marinakis, the Greek shipping magnate who owns the Premier League team, recently suggested the club needs to move to a bigger facility outside the city to push forward and match his ambitions for the Reds.

Despite this idea provoking shock and disappointment from fans and leaders of Nottingham City Council, who lease the land to Nottingham Forest for £250,000 a year, the club has approached Nottinghamshire County Council with the hope of moving its stadium to land in Toton previously earmarked for HS2's eastern leg before its cancellation. Those running pubs and shops around the 30,404 capacity stadium, all of which were Nottingham Forest themed or had memorabilia for sale or on the walls, explained they would be distraught should Marinakis' recently-outlined masterplan be realised.

Mark James, 47, owner of the Boot Room straight across from the City Ground, said the fan-favourite boozer would struggle should the City Ground move from the banks of the River Trent. "He [Marinakis] has a decision to make and if they do move, it will mean a lot of business owners around here would have to look at what their plans are.

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"We would struggle without the ground being here - we don't want to depend on it but pubs are closing every day at the moment and the fans coming in help us deal with rising costs. Forest fans come in for drinks on matchdays, but they also book private parties and events after coming in.

The Boot Room straight across from the City Ground
The Boot Room straight across from the City Ground -Credit:Nottingham Post

"A lot of people's weekends, after they've worked hard all week, involve coming to this stadium and then having a drink. It feels like everything at the moment is against the fans, the ticket prices, the loss of more 3pm Saturday games, and now this - moving the club itself away.

"I would be really shocked if they moved, the fans I think would be really upset by the change and the loss of the club's history here. It just feels very against the will of the fans, which is what football's core values should be centred around - I think it is selling the club's soul."

Jessica Beales, 45, who runs Cloughies cob stop in the shadow of the ground in Pavilion Road, was staunchly against the plans, which would undermine the heavily themed eatery named after the Reds' most successful manager. "Just the thought of it is devastating, our business depends on it but we're fans too - I don't want to see it go," she said.

"Rolling in from the Trent isn't going to work in Toton is it? Our family are all against it, for business reasons and because we're fans, I just don't think the matchday atmosphere will ever be the same if it happens."

When told the timescale for such a move was uncertain, Ms Beales explained the shop was currently expanding into a space next door for the 2024/2025 football season. "But that will be out of the window if they end up moving soon," she added.

The plans outlined by Nottingham Forest's billionaire owner are the latest development in a dispute between Forest and the city council, which began when the club went public about its opposition to the council wanting to increase the rent from £250,000 to "north of a million." However, the Labour-run council has said an offer for Forest to buy the freehold for the stadium instead at a cost of £10 million has been on the table from the beginning of talks.

Marinakis has accused Nottingham of a lack of ambition and wants to see his club in a 50,000-seater all-purpose stadium with state-of-the-art training facilities and academy set-up. To this end, Forest has signed a 'memorandum of understanding' with the Conservative-led county council, which has said this agreement will support the club's ambitions to "deliver new training and stadium infrastructure" at land in Toton.

Like many businesses around the current stadium, which has housed the two-time European Cup winners since 1898, the MSR Newsagents on Radcliffe Road has also adapted to appeal to the thousands of fans that descend for every home match. Forest magazines, books and fanzines take up a whole wall of the shop so supporters can stock up on memorabilia, but this could change if Marinakis enacts his vision to leave West Bridgford.

"During football and cricket matches we get more people coming in, that's why we have a lot of Forest items for sale," worker Sanyam Pahwa said. "If the stadium left I think fewer people would buy these things, so I think that would have to change - it would have an impact on the business but we will only see how bad that impact will be when it happens."

Shas Hama, a barber at 1st Hair Cut on Pavilion Road, explained that unlike most other local business owners he was torn between his heart and his head over the planned relocation. "As a fan I definitely don't want to see us move, but we do get a lot less people coming in during match days because the road is closed and you can't park nearby - so it could be better for the business," the Forest supporter said.

"I am sure that if they build hundreds of apartments there afterwards we would get more customers, but thinking as a fan I don't want it to happen. I don't think it makes sense to move so far out of the way and I think people won't want to do it."