MEET PAUL FLETCHER – the previous Claret and Blue who believes the way forward for footballing stadia lies in rural Japanese Europe.
Bolton-born, the striker would go on to play for his beloved Trotters earlier than turning into a Burnley legend – making nearly 300 appearances through the 1970s.
Now a sprightly 68-year-old, Fletcher has earned the title as certainly one of Europe’s main stadium specialists, overseeing the rise of Huddersfield, Bolton and Coventry’s present houses.
He was additionally a key participant within the improvement of the brand new Wembley, performing as industrial director from 1999 to 2001.
Now, his eyes are firmly mounted on the long run – a part of a revolutionary new examine that predicts cities populated by over 200,000 folks will probably be purposely constructed round mega-stadiums within the subsequent 40 years.
Talking of the examine commissioned by Mastercard, Fletcher mentioned: “It is going to be with an rising membership to start out off with, most certainly from Japanese Europe. That’s the place all the cash and land is these days.
“It’s a billionaire factor to do on this age to purchase a soccer membership, so why not strive someplace with potential not solely to construct a stadium, however a neighborhood?
“The soccer world is getting a bit mad so it’s simply following it alongside.”
A number of different areas round Europe have additionally been earmarked due to their proximity to worldwide transport hyperlinks and surrounding land.
The stadiums will probably be primarily based on what Fletcher calls the ‘Hamburger Mannequin’ – three tiers consisting of parking and buying, sport and music and training and pupil lodging.
‘THEY WILL BE STADIUMS OF THE FUTURE’
It might be the primary of its type in world sport, costing round £700m to revolutionise neighborhood improvement.
Fletcher mentioned: “Grounds at the moment are catalysts for a city shifting forwards. Again in Ye Olde days, cities had been constructed round church buildings – it needs to be the identical now with soccer.
“However fairly than construct only a stadium, you construct a industrial constructing that operates 13 out of 14 days, and as soon as a fortnight some soccer is performed.
“Youngsters can examine there, work there on match days after which spend their cash within the surrounding outlets and eating places – it’s the stadium of the long run.
“With the fitting industrial improvement, you get your funding again in 5 to 10 years, assist the local people and have a high flight facet inside half a century.”
Fletcher has spent the final 30 years attending to know the world of footballing stadia – and overtly admits to studying off of some large cock-ups in earlier ventures.
Huddersfield’s trendy John Smith Stadium – the primary to be constructed after the Hillsborough Stadium Catastrophe Inquiry report – was dumped on Fletcher’s lap as industrial supervisor of the membership, at a time when he admits he had no clue what he was doing.
He says it’s riddled with errors, most notably within the curved outer arches that each deny any capability enhance and permit the ambiance to seep out on match day.
He then secured the naming rights for the Reebok Stadium as chief government, however shortly realised its location and mega-parking turned it right into a money-draining ghost city.
It was topped by a mix-up that makes Tottenham’s stadium delay look tame – forgetting to place in over 500 seats as season ticket holders turned as much as a Reebok trial-run.
“I have a look at that as a catastrophe, not a superb stadium. That to me is the demise of Bolton wanderers,” he mentioned.
The insanity will be summed up by Fletcher’s first assembly with former Bolton proprietor Eddie Davies.
“Eddie Davies as soon as came visiting and mentioned ‘I need to purchase a field’. I had no concept who he was on the time and advised him they had been all gone,” explains Fletcher.
“We went behind one of many objectives and I keep in mind him spitting on the ground and saying ‘Construct me a field right here’ and in the long run we did. It price us £25okay.
“Each sport we might then spot him with a rockstar or a politician in his field. It was loopy. However he ended up placing £186m into the membership.”
Fletcher did make some good selections – the event of the most important on line casino within the UK alongside Coventry Metropolis’s Ricoh Enviornment was a revelation, earlier than Coventry Council obtained concerned.
“Soccer administrators can take dangers, council leaders don’t. It’s like mixing oil with water, it simply doesn’t work. Now Coventry Metropolis are tenants in their very own dwelling.”
He added: “You be taught from one stadium to a different. I noticed that you must level a stadium north, because the solar rises within the east and units within the west, so that you then get the utmost daylight.
“And in winter the solar comes over fairly low, so you employ translucent panels on the roof which suggests most daylight on the pitch.”
Sat in certainly one of Wembley’s many personal bins overlooking the pitch, Fletcher breathes an enormous sigh: “What I discover odd about new stadiums is that nobody appears to be taught.
“Nobody got here to me and requested me for recommendation. The FA doesn’t supply any assist and soccer golf equipment are nonetheless making the identical errors.”
Arsenal’s atmosphere-killing formed roof on the Emirates and West Ham’s fan-hating seat association on the London Stadium high Fletcher’s pet hates of the present lumps of metallic in England.
However in Fletcher’s eyes, the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is the long run.
“The important thing factor to it’s that they haven’t relocated,” he admitted.
“It’s only some metres to the facet. Folks can nonetheless carry the identical recollections of the outdated White Hart Lane proper again to Jimmy Greaves.”
Fletcher’s function at Wembley over 15 years in the past was short-lived – with rising prices from £440m to £780m to construct the nation’s greatest and greatest stadium taking its toll.
Even fellow developer and Chelsea chairman Ken Bates as soon as turned to Lancashire-born Fletcher and remarked: “You’re not powerful sufficient for London.”
However nonetheless, Fletcher stays totally in opposition to the sale of Wembley: “It’s a bit like asking if it’s a good suggestion to promote Buckingham Palace. It’s not.
“You need to preserve your nationwide treasures, not promote them to international international locations.”
The largest debate in stadium design proper now’s how one can preserve gamers secure – pitch invaders marring the tip of the season in English soccer with the likes of Jack Grealish being bodily attacked and a streaker managing to disrupt the Champions League closing in Madrid.
However Fletcher takes it with a pinch salt. In his eyes, he has witnessed far worse.
“For the reason that disasters at Bradford in ‘85 and Hillsborough in ‘89 we now have the most secure stadiums on this planet,” he mentioned.
“You’ll have remoted incidents as a result of we don’t put fences round pitches. The one method to cease the odd foolish fan working on is to place fences again up however that may by no means occur once more.
“Just a few stewards weren’t on their toes. However should you multiply the final 30 years by what number of instances it’s occurred, it’s few and much between. Usually, now, now we have unbelievable stadiums.”