Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Stadium for Cornwall - the economic case that doesn't add up - UPDATED

As I've blogged before, Cornwall Council is busy pushing the stadium for Cornwall on the basis of the new jobs it will bring and the boost that it will provide to our local economy. According to the Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Chris Ridgers, the stadium will mean an extra £3 million a year and 109 jobs.

I asked for the basis on which these statements were made and have been sent the consultant's report. You can read the whole thing at the bottom of this post. This document (presumably with others) will be going to a meeting of the Economy Scrutiny Committee in the near future.

I've got a fair amount of experience of sports clubs having worked closely with AFC Wimbledon since their inception up until a couple of years ago and with Launceston Rugby Club since they were in what is now called the Championship. I've therefore been very keen to see how the consultant could justify the very high figures that Cllr Ridgers has been using.

In short, they can't. And in one (small) respect, they don't even try. Because whilst Cllr Ridgers has been saying the economic boost would be £3 million per year, the report only makes claim to £2.6 million.

I've had a close look at the report line by line and, whilst it's impossible to comment on some of the claims being made because of the lack of information given, there are three broad reasons why I think the report fails to justify the claims that it makes:

- there is a massive over-estimate of the amount of new spending
Most of the amount the will be spent at a stadium would have been spent anyway. There might be some new fans (particularly for Pirates matches) and there will be use of the stadium on non-matchdays but neither is enough to justify the claim that the total spend will be four times as much as is spent now.

- there is no hard evidence of what the clubs spend or the fans want
Assertions are made in the report about the amount of local spending and the potential leakage of money outside the Cornish economy. It should have been possible to talk to the clubs about this and present hard evidence in the report, but this is entirely absent. Also missing are any assessments of the spending behaviour of fans (particularly away fans). An estimate of 5% of the total number of stadium users being from out of Cornwall AND staying overnight seems very high and there is no evidence to back it up.

- the estimates about new jobs are just a joke
The report claims that the Pirates will employ 30 new full time staff and Truro City 20 new full time staff just because they move into a stadium - not including bar, catering or grounds staff. Considering a non-league club of Truro City's standing probably employs no more than two or three people other than in the categories mentioned above, it's difficult to see what these 20 new people will be doing.

You can read my full commentary on the report below as well.

I'm happy to admit I'm fallible and don't claim that my analysis is perfect, but I think it raises significant questions about the amount of weight that can be given to the consultant's report. The fans and people of Cornwall deserve a lot better than blind assertion if they are going to be asked to put their hands in their pockets for a stadium. If a genuinely strong case can be made then that's all well and good, but I think this is a pretty weak case as things stand and I look forward to having the chance to question it at the scrutiny meeting.

Stadium Report - AF Comments

Appendix H - Economic Impact Assessment

UPDATE - MK Cllr Stephen Richardson has followed up and suggested that the stadium project is being proposed more as a CV building exercise rather than because it is the right thing for Cornwall to do. He suggests that, if it were really going to turn a profit, someone would have done this already. He also suggests that this might be something which could be the useful subject for a Cornwall wide referendum. Now there's a thought...

UPDATE 2 - My colleague Graham Walker has put his own thoughts down on his blog - well worth a read.

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