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A story of frustration in Cambridge City's bid to move to a new stadium at Sawston

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Artist impression of the Cambridge City FC Sawston football ground. (34045404)
Artist impression of the Cambridge City FC Sawston football ground. (34045404)

Cambridge City’s quest to move into a new stadium at Sawston seems to be a story of frustration.

At the end of the 2012/13 season they vacated their Milton Road home, but club president Len Satchell had purchased a 35-acre site in Sawston for a 3,000-capacity stadium and community facility.

The Lilywhites have been ground-sharing ever since as they navigated an elongated planning process that ended with the initial permission being overturned on a technicality at the High Court, and then, finally, being granted after being resubmitted.

After the opportunity for any judicial review had passed in December, the Satchell family agreed a seven-figure donation for the club to use to build the new ground, and that was to be enhanced by grants through the Football Foundation, with Pat McGowan appointed as partner funding coordinator for the stadium build.

However, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has meant progress has slowed again.

“Until the virus hit, we were progressing fairly well, mainly in terms of getting closer to achieving the right price for the whole development – in terms of finding a developer to do it at an affordable price – but beginning to look seriously at grant funding,” said City chairman Kevin Satchell.

“Some of that has still been able to take place since, but unfortunately it seems to be getting slower and slower because we can’t have the meetings we need to have really.

“I know you can do some things remotely, but it’s proving very difficult at the moment. Things are not exactly on hold, but we’re just going at a slower pace.

“We’re still hopeful that the stadium could start this summer, the actual physical work, although that’s becoming a little bit doubtful now I suppose because of restrictions.

“We really want to get in there if we can at the start of the season after next. We’re still aiming for that, but we will have to see how long a hold up this proves to be.”

As well as the traditional brick building, City are also exploring other options, which include modular buildings and structures that have been used in other sporting constructions.

However, a meeting with one of the major suppliers has had to be postponed due to the present situation.

“We’re just waiting at the moment for when we can get together,” said Satchell.

“Without knowing more detail on that side of things we can’t really progress to give anybody the contracts until we’ve looked at everybody’s prices and put together what we think is going to be the best, most cost-effective project.”

It is certainly a case of being patient for City, something that they have become accustomed to in their bid to move to Sawston.

But, from a more positive perspective, they are not feeling the financial strain as much as other clubs.

By groundsharing with Histon, it means that they do not have their own facilities to run and so have not lost potential revenue streams.

“We had six home games not take place because of this which was fairly significant, one of them would have been a home derby with Histon on Easter Monday which certainly would have been very useful income to us,” said Satchell, pictured left.

“We haven’t been hit as hard, no doubt, as clubs who have their own grounds and hire things out every day of the week.

“We had our rents to pay and our employees, our players, and as long as we’re able to cover them, and there are ways of doing that, then we’re OK.”

City did not have any contracted players in the squad at present, so it was a case of observing obligations to players to the end of the season, which would have concluded last Saturday.

And the Lilywhites were on a seven-game unbeaten run without conceding a goal when the season was cancelled.

Satchell added: “Financially, we’re OK. It’s not great, there’s not much in the bank. When this all hit us we’d got a decent looking squad together and so if we can carry that forward then I’m sure we can survive financially through this.

“We should come out the other end reasonably healthy, whenever that may be. We should be fairly stable at the end of all this and able to kick on, to use a phrase.”

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