‘Denying stadium move will cost us thousands through the gates’

Aberdeen Football Club bosses have warned that crowd numbers could fall by thousands if their hopes for a new multimillion pound stadium are rejected.

Recent success has buoyed attendances at Pittodrie, with Saturday’s game against Hamilton Academical attracting more than 15,000.

But club bosses fear that without the draw of a new stadium, Aberdeen could be left behind rivals when it comes to attracting big names and attendances would drop.

The dire warning comes just two months before a final decision on the ambitious proposal for the stadium and trainining facilities at Kingsford, between Westhill and Kingswells, is made.

Until then, both supporters and objectors are fighting to make their views known – with the next crucial stage of the process being the pre-determination meeting next month, where both sides will get to air their views before councillors.

A new report linked to the application reads: “In the remain at Pittodrie scenario, a future attendance of 8,500 is assumed vs 13,476 in the move to Kingsford scenario.”

But a council officer queries the figures in the report and asks for more information – while the opposing No 2 Kingsford group said it “did not accept the claims” and insisted it was vital for the stadium to be built in the heart of the city.

Last night however, George Yule, executive vice-chairman of AFC, defended the concerns about dwindling crowds and said: “The club needs suitable facilities and resources to continue to be successful as a team and a business.

“Without best-in-class community, training facilities and stadia, there will be limited investment for quality players and coaches which will result in poorer football performance and lower attendances.

“These plans will be a key factor in sustaining long-term success, delivering greater economic benefit, and enhancing the north-east’s profile and reputation for sporting excellence.”

The warning came as the club announced a raft of new infrastructure measures in an attempt to reassure local residents worried about the increase in traffic.

They have vowed to build a pedestrian footbridge over the A944 Aberdeen to Alford road at the west-most junction into where the stadium would be built, and say they will also put in part-time traffic lights where the road meets the new AWPR junction.

Lights would also be installed on the east-most junction into the stadium – which would be solely used by shuttle buses in a move to encourage more people to use them than cars.

The additional information provided by the club also shows that the controlled parking zone within Westhill has been increased to a 30 minute walking zone from the previous 20 minutes.

In letters attached to the latest documents, Police Scotland have confirmed they can and will control parking zones, and the bus companies have confirmed that they have sufficient buses and drivers available to cover all match times, weekends and week day evenings.

Mr Yule said he hoped that the fresh detail on the infrastructure support would allay some of the concerns surrounding the controversial proposal.

“We hope that, as more detail emerges on our plans, we can go some way towards reassuring those who have genuine concerns, particularly around traffic and safety,” he said.

“If we are fortunate enough to be granted planning permission, we want to work together with all stakeholders, but particularly local residents, to deliver a community sports campus, football academy and stadium that the club, the community and the wider region can be proud of.”

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “As committed supporters of the city centre masterplan, the chamber is encouraged that the economic analysis shows the benefits of the stadium move significantly outweigh any downsides.”

However in a statement, the No 2 Kingsford group said: “No Kingsford Stadium do not accept claims that attendances will decline if they do not move to Kingsford.

“As Scotland’s third city, a community stadium, close to the heart of the city is vital to ensure that the city remains relevant for the future.

“There are identified sites for a stadium in the local development plan such as Loirston and previously, Kings Links. The land at Kingsford is greenbelt and must be protected.”