Nottingham Forest's potential blueprint for City Ground exit

Nottingham Forest's City Ground
Nottingham Forest's City Ground -Credit:Getty Images

Nottingham Forest’s ongoing dispute with Nottingham City Council over the City Ground has taken a new twist following comments made by the club’s chairman.

Tom Cartledge has told The Athletic of Forest’s frustration at being unable to build a relationship or to find a solution to the row that has called into question the Reds’ future at their famous home.

He has also claimed that other councils and landowners are ‘providing opportunities that we have to consider’, with Forest seemingly balking at the prospect of seeing the City Ground rent rise from £250,000 a year, to £1million.

That has raised the possibility of Forest finding a single site for both a new stadium and training ground, with Cartledge citing Manchester City as an example: “It’s fair to say we are progressing due diligence on different sites,” he said.

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But Forest don’t need to look too far to find a Midlands rivals engaged in their own, considerably less contentious, project, one that will see Birmingham City play and train on a single site close to the city centre.

Blues’ owners Knighthead, led by Tom Wagner, have struck a deal for a 48-acre site not far from their current base at St Andrew’s.

What’s the proposal

Knighthead are not only planning a 60,000 seater stadium but an entire Sports Quarter, it is not so much about a new ground as redevelopment of an entire area near Birmingham city centre.

The site will hold a new stadium, training facilities for all Birmingham City teams, a new academy, community pitches and commercial space to support local businesses, on the doorstep of the city centre. It's estimated that the development will create as many as 3,000 jobs locally. Wagner has said the cost will be between £2-3billion.

The stadium itself is described as being 'multi-use' upon its opening, with the club seeking different ways to generate revenue.

How long will it take?

Wagner is not dallying about. He said: “My time frame is lunacy but we’d like to get this completed in five years. That is the perfect world if everyone works with us at the same pace we’re willing to work. Five years from August and we could be in. I’m going to keep saying that even though it makes everyone around me sweat. A lot of it is outside our control but that’s the goal.”

Relegation to League One has not dampened that fervour.

What else has been said?

Explaining what the Sports Quarter will look like, Wagner said: “To understand why we’re doing this you have to get a sense of the whole vision. This isn’t about a stadium, this is about a Sports Quarter so what does that mean? That’s a stadium, that’s a training ground for men’s, women’s and the academy teams in one location.

“It also brings in other entertainment options, all of which are currently being worked out. We’ve got lots of inbound inquiries from different organisations that want to play a role. I can see hospitality in there which is hotels, restaurants - there’s a new thing called ‘eatertainment’ where you combine the two things. Beyond that, there’s a development broadly within that region where we would hope to encompass some housing on this site (St Andrew’s) depending on what we end up doing here.

“When you look at the fact this site (Wheels) is in walking distance of the city centre, that’s a one-off in European football. No other team has a stadium, an academy, other entertainment venue in a single location within walking distance of the city centre.”

Interestingly, the Birmingham City owners have been impressed by what they have seen at Man City and the Etihad complex has been referenced in discussions at the club, with Tom Brady known to have liked what he has seen.

Tom Wagner attends a Birmingham City match ahead of his proposed takeover of the club
Birmingham City chairman Tom Wagner -Credit:Andy Shaw/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

How do Blues fans feel about it?

The response largely been very, very positive, so positive in fact the long-term outlook for the club has ameliorated much of the frustration at this season’s on-field struggles.

Birmingham City Football Club have been blighted by neglectful ownership for a decade so the prospect of someone investing not just in the team but the club and indeed the city has brought Knighthead a lot of goodwill – while they make mistakes learning the business of football.

Also many supporters started to fall ‘out of love’ with St Andrew’s after a safety survey saw a third of the ground closed for three years, something that was only rectified after investment by Knighthead this season.

Not everyone is happy, some feel more attention should be paid to the first team rather than other projects but overall there is an excitement at Birmingham City that is at odds with the ignominy recently served up on the pitch.

How do you feel about the prospect of leaving the City Ground? Have your say here