A budget deal has been announced between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru containing an intriguing line regarding a football museum, that could be key jigsaw piece of the Racecourse Stadium redevelopment.
The budget agreement (details here) covers a wide range of financial breakdowns, with the below ‘Plaid Cymru priority’ listed with £0 for 2018-19 and £5m for 2019-2020.
Although the figure listed is £5m any contribution to a purely football targeted museum would likely be lower, and subject to feasibility studies to the exact location. The inevitable local cynicism had talk of Cardiff being the eventual destination for any museum, but ‘North Wales’, and specifically the north east is the expected and hoped destination.
Welsh Government Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said on the topic “We have also been able to agree capital funding to take forward the new integrated healthcare centre in Cardigan and the results of the feasibility studies into a national art gallery and football museum in North Wales, which were agreed as part of last year’s agreement.”
Plaid Cymru North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said of the budget: “I’m particularly pleased that there’s a funding commitment for a National Football Museum that will be a significant attraction to the region. It’s a campaign we’ve been running with for some time now with the support of local football fans, who I’m sure will welcome the news.”
On Tuesday evening representatives of the Board of Wrexham Football Club will be in Cardiff Bay meeting members of the Welsh Assembly Government, plus other AMs, government officials, Wrexham Council and Glyndwr University.
The purpose of the meeting is stated as ‘to discuss the future redevelopment of the Racecourse Ground and achieve the best possible outcome for the region, the town and sporting excellence in the community’.
The Club say: “Presentations by Wrexham club directors will bring to life an ambitious vision for this regionally significant stadium and its potential to kickstart a positive regeneration of this important gateway to the North’s largest town.
“In the two year budget announced on Sunday 1st October, provision has been made by the Welsh Assembly Government for a North Wales based national football museum. As North-East Wales is the only part of the country without a national museum and, with Wrexham being the birthplace of football in Wales, it is a logical solution to locate a museum at the Racecourse Ground as part of a wider development of the stadium.
“Directors of the club will set out an ambitious vision for the future that would create more jobs and opportunities for the area and attract more people to the town.”
Director Spencer Harris said “There is a fantastic opportunity here for the leaders of our National Government to help us create something the region can be proud of. The Racecourse can serve the needs of North and Mid Wales and deliver sporting and cultural accessibility to all parts of the country. We have had a very positive reaction from both the local authority and Glyndwr University and hope to build on that momentum with Welsh Government. Having a four sided stadium with facilities that enables us to generate more income on a ‘non-match day’ is essential for the Racecourse to prosper.”
Wrexham.com understands Welsh Government has not yet been in receipt of a formal ‘business case’ document, however as when we had a quick chat with First Minister Carwyn Jones last year, Welsh Government are supportive of the desire to improve the stadium and work with the various local stakeholders.
The land behind the Kop has been under offer for many weeks after being for sale for years. It is thought Glyndwr University are keen to rejig their student accommodation provision as part of a wider estate review, and have been looking to dispose of land elsewhere in Wrexham to help fund future developments. It has not formally been confirmed that they are the potential buyers, with the current owners (Geoff Moss & Ian Roberts) yet to formally release their unwelcome grasp on the land to whoever the purchasers are.
Back in 2006 Geoff Moss (then club owner) told the people of Wrexham that the Wrexham Village student development would mean a new Kop stand, saying “The club fully intends to deliver a 5,000 all seater stand.” That did not happen, with the then debt ridden club sold for a token sum, the incomplete student flats development split from the ownership of the club, and the ground itself sold to Glyndwr University.
In 2006 it was highlighted with ‘grave concern’ that after all the land dealings had taken place the desire for a 5,000 seater stand could be limited by the amount of land leftover. The desire for a certain size stand was linked to the future use of the stadium for international football matches, however that could have changed to a more practical solution involving temporary staging due to its revived use as a large scale events venue such as the recent Stereophonics and Olly Murs gigs.
We are told Wrexham Council are fully supportive of progress at the Racecourse site, and although tangible support of any development would be via resource and officer time rather than any specific hard cash, it is possible 2018 could be a year of significant progress on and off the pitch for the club.
Pic: The land behind the Kop.
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