After 4,500 days in exile the "finishing line is in sight" for Gloucester City Football Club
By James Young | 23rd September 2019
After nearly 4,500 days spent away from the city they are proud to represent, Gloucester City say the "finishing line is in sight" for their long-awaited return home.
Victims of the July 2007 floods, City have been without a home ground since their Meadow Park home was engulfed by floodwater and rendered unusable and uninsurable.
Since then, the club have been forced to play in Nailsworth, Cirencester, Cheltenham and now over the Worcestershire border in Evesham, spending 12 seasons playing away games every week.
But that nomadic nightmare is close to being ended.
Plans for a new ground at Meadow Park - on raised ground so as to be prevent future flooding - were approved by Gloucester City Council earlier this year.
Work to build the new stadium infrastructure have so far been prevented from taking place until funding from the Football Stadia Imrovement Fund had been approved.
However, City chairman and Managing Director of construction firm Soldi Alex Petheram has confirmed that the funding application has been successful.
FSIF funding is capped at £250,000 or at 70 per cent of the construction costs for clubs at City's level - although the club requested and received more due to their unique situation.
Speaking to Punchline, Mr Petheram said: "We are delighted to have received verbal confirmation from the FSIF that our funding application is successful.
"I am unable to give full details of the amounts we have received because of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, but it's going to be a massive help.
"We are massively grateful that the FSIF have been supportive. We asked and got more because of our unique situation, but we were never going to see the amount trebled."
The balance of the build will therefore have to be funded by Mr Petheram and City's joint chairman Eammon McGurk.
Mr Petheram couldn't give an exact amount due to the confidentiality agreements and other factors but said that it would be a "seven-figure sum" that needed raising.
Regardless, the club are pressing ahead and are looking to start work as soon as is feasibly possible.
Mr Petheram's construction firm Soldi - who worked on the Stadium MK build in Milton Keynes and have vast experience in the sector - will be working on the site.
The groundwork - literally - has already been done with the site successfully raised and settled and ready for work to start.
"This week I would like to be placing the order for the steelwork we need," Mr Petheram added.
"I have already placed a tentative order with a handshake, but once the paperwork comes through from the FSIF we can get that ordered.
"That will have a 10 to 12-week lead time for delivery, so we will work back and forward from that date. Ideally, we would like to be on site in mid-November.
"We would love to be there for a game there this season, but realistic, it is looking more and more unlikely.
"We have permission from both the FA and the National League to move if we are ready. All we would need is a safety certificate once the work was completed."
With things finally progressing at Meadow Park, the club have begun to think about promoting themselves to the businesses of Gloucester before their return.
Stadium sponsorships, stand sponsorships, advertising boards and a host of other commercial opportunities are being made available.
Some of the packages have prices - it will be £500 plus VAT for a pitchside advertising board and gold package that includes six season tickets and other benefits will be £5,000 plus VAT.
Mr Petheram said: "When I speak to Gloucester businesses a lot of them say we will support you when you get back into the city, well that time is now.
"A lot of them probably don't believe it will happen, so once we've got that first piece of steel in the ground, it will make a big difference.
"We are currently looking for verbal expressions of interest, and then we will get things firmed up later, when things have progressed.
"Stadium sponsors and stand sponsors are going to be crucial. And we will listen to all offers from companies who want to support us."
All commercial packages will begin at the start of the 2020/21 season, but the club are offering any games that are played at Meadow Park this season free of charge.
"It would be great if we could be back this season," Mr Petheram said. "Failing that it is going to be a fantastic and fun pre-season."
For any enquires, offers of support or interest contact Gloucester City commercial manager Rob Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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