Wolves’ wait-and-see stance on venue revamp


Wolverhampton Wanderers update May 2020 Image: BirminghamLive

Works to expand, piece by piece, the historic Molineux Stadium at West Midlands, UK, home of the Premier League team Wolverhampton Wanderers, is yet to get off to a start and will take time as the United Kingdom bear the brunt of the new strain of coronavirus.

The Executive Chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jeff Shi, has admitted that any plans to redevelop Molineux will be done with a cautious approach in order to avoid a potential “financial dilemma”.

With COVID-19 affecting finances across the globe and the United Kingdom at the receiving end of a highly contagious new variant of COVID-19, which emerged in Southeast England at the end of last year, leading to a soaring number of infections across Britain with cases and deaths reaching record levels, Shi opined that they will have to tread cautiously on the stadium revamp issue.

The top shot is of the view that it is more important to ensure the “product on the pitch is up to standard”.

Shi told mediapersons, “We have a long-term plan for the stadium. Eventually, we hope to have a larger stadium, but to expand, we need to be cautious. We don’t want to put ourselves into a financial dilemma by doing too much too soon, because in 20 years, anything can happen. We have seen many examples of how a new, bigger stadium can hurt and sometimes kill a club.”

“What I’m planning to do is a step-by-step plan. We will not rebuild the stadium from zero, we want to expand some of the capacity here and rebuild some parts there. Expanding gradually will be safer,” he added.

Shi further put in, “What are more crucial are still the 11 players on the pitch. A new stadium is nice to have, but it’s a long-term ambition. Now my mind is clearer, we have already a solid plan for Molineux, and hopefully soon we can start to make improvements and expansions year-on-year and eventually we will reach that point.”

Despite the more reserved plans for Molineux, Shi has reaffirmed the ownership’s commitment to ensuring Wolves can compete with the cream of the crop clubs in world football.

He asserted, “In the long-term, our aims are still the same. There has not been any change. Even in a really big pandemic that could go on for a long time, that time-frame is still a small part of our 10-year, 20-year plan. For our long-term aims, I’ve repeated it many times, we want to be an elite team in the world, and also a top brand in the world, but we are not in a rush. We want to do things steadily, step-by-step, to build the club to that level.”

Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, commonly known as Wolves, is a professional association football club based in the City of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, England. It is a top-tier English Premier League club since 2016.

Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England, has been the home ground of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club since 1889. The stadium has hosted England internationals and, more recently, England under-21 internationals, as well as the first Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Cup Final in 1972.

Since the Chinese conglomerate company Fosun International purchased Wolverhampton Wanderers back in 2016, they have maintained their commitment to developing and updating the stadium, with the hopes of eventually reaching a 50,000 capacity.

Molineux Stadium stands

The green signal for building a second new temporary stand was granted by Wolverhampton Council way back in May 2020 and the permission will be valid for the next three years.

The proposed temporary stand is to be constructed between the Sir Jack Hayward and Steve Bull stands adding on 500 more seats which would take the 31,700 capacity Molineux to over 32,000.

The stadium has four main stands, the Sir Jack Hayward Stand, Steve Bull Stand, Stans Cullis Stand and Billy Wright Stand. The temporary Graham Hughes stand was a later add-on.

The proposed temporary stand would mirror the 800-capacity Graham Hughes Stand which is in place between the Sir Jack Hayward stand and the Billy Wright Stand.

It is reported that the COVID 19 pandemic is the cause for the Wolves putting on hold the construction of the stand.

With demand far outstripping supply, there are about 10,000 fans on the waiting list for every home fixture of the Wolves, and in a pre-COVID-19 world, it had become imperative for the Wolves to go for an expansion.

The initial proposal was for an increase of the 31,700-capacity stadium to 50,000 by redeveloping the four stands and equipping the facility with premium facilities.

However, the commercial return that investment for a massive overhaul would entail, made stadium owners Fosun International do a rethink in favor of a long-term measure for the increase of seats.

Caution is the key word and the Molineux will see extensions and improvements to the existing stands rather than demolishing and rebuilding them completely.

The longer term redevelopment of the original stands – instead of going for a complete renovation – is intended to keep the Wolves at Molineux as well as to retain its unique aura.

The slow approach will benefit Wolverhampton Wanderers in terms of receiving a significant investment as they aim to continue being both a Premier League team and a European force to reckon with.

The Wolves have now less than three years left to commence work on the temporary stand which will see the existing video wall taken down and replaced by a new one placed behind an uncovered stand.

The club had earlier evinced keen interest to start work on the Steve Bull Stand in 2020 with the redevelopment of the Sir Jack Hayward Stand to potentially begin in 2022. The rebuilding of the Steve Bull, Jack Hayward and Billy Wright Stands would expand the capacity of Molineux Stadium to 38,000, 43,000 and 50,000, respectively.

Revamp plans

The chorus has grown louder for the total repurposing of the Steve Bull booth. The grandstand is currently the oldest in the stadium. However, since such an investment would only pay for itself over many years, the club owners intend to make numerous minor improvements throughout the stadium.

In addition to upgrading the current grandstands, the hospitality areas are also to be improved. Since no big investment will be made for the time being, plans are on to make capital infusion for the short-term plans looking at the very grave COVID-19 situation in the United Kingdom.

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