Friday 02nd December 2005

Fleet increase seating capacity at Stonebridge Road

Subject to getting final approval on design and safety issues, Gravesend & Northfleet will now be putting seats in the Northfleet End rather than replace the existing terracing, reports www.gnfc.co.uk

The Nationwide Conference club had been unable to begin the work on the terracing until receiving clearance on the design and obtaining an extension to the lease on their Stonebridge Road ground.

The lease extension has been obtained but there are design issues that make replacing the existing terracing impractical.

A feasibility study has indicated that removing the existing concrete on the terrace so as to re-profile it in accordance with safety regulations may impact the steel stanchions that support the Stand roof and put the contractors at risk.

The cost of alleviating this risk or replacing the existing roof adds a substantial amount to the cost of the works as well as further time delays.

The club, therefore, has looked at various alternatives to come up with something that is safe and cost-efficient and have received a proposal from a seating company that would enable them to keep the existing roof at the Northfleet End whilst placing a new covered seating configuration with 513 seats on top of the existing terrace.

Chairman Brian Kilcullen said: “This whole saga with the Northfleet End has given us nothing but problems. In an ideal world we would have just re-terraced the whole area and got it back to the way it used to be.

"However, under the current regulations regarding grounds it is not possible. The best we could have done is open half of it and now we have run into further problems.

"Whilst we have plans to move to a new stadium as soon as possible, we may still be here for a few more years yet and want the ground to be fully functional”.

He added: “The Football Stadia Improvement Fund has supported our proposal at 50% of the cost and we would very much like to thank then for their invaluable support on this project

“I’m sure many fans will be disappointed if we have seats rather than a terrace behind the goal but we have no option. I personally often stood behind that goal because I enjoyed the atmosphere and am disappointed it has come to this”.

There are, however, some side benefits from the club having to follow the seating route. They need to have an additional 500 seats under cover at some stage to meet the necessary criteria going forward.

The terrace on the Stonebridge Road side could have been used but that would mean the far larger cost of putting seats there and still having to re-terrace half of the Northfleet End, plus deal with the expense of the stanchion risk. It is a similar case, if they were to put a roof and seats at the Swanscombe End.

Brian Kilcullen confirmed there are some side benefits.  "We need 1,000 seats under cover to be able to meet the criteria for the Football League should we be lucky enough to get promoted," he said.

"We also want the ground to meet LDV Trophy status in case we finish in the top 12 this season. Installing these seats now means we won’t have that additional requirement further down the line”.

Meanwhile, on the pitch, it has been mutually agreed to cancel Manny Omoyinmi’s contract with immediate effect. This decision has been reached amicably between both parties following the player’s inability to force his way into a regular First Team slot so far this season.

Manager Liam Daish said:. “We had a tentative enquiry from Lewes regarding Manny which I felt I had to make him aware of.

"For whatever reason things have not quite worked out for Manny so far this season and I believe that this move was a good one for both him and the club.

"He lives on the South coast and Lewes is an easier journey for him. We are placing higher demands on all of our players as we make the transition from part time to full time at this club and it is sometimes difficult for our part time players in particular to adapt. We would like to wish him well for the future.”

Gravesend & Northfleet v Morecambe
Nationwide Conference
Saturday 3rd December 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Stonebridge Road, Northfleet