Swansea City FC; No to McDonald’s taking a Liberty
Do we fans of Swansea City simply attract undesirable hangers-on that attempt to exploit our good nature or are we merely easy prey? Easy prey that is, until we fight back. First it was Tony Petty who tried to kill us off and now it appears it Swansea County Council and burger-lovers McDonald’s are severely attempting to hamper any potential growth we have a club, a city and a region through their own brand of selfishness and short sightedness. Dylan Thomas once described Swansea as the “Graveyard of Ambition” and outside the hallowed walls of the Liberty Stadium, it would appear he has a case.
Swansea City Football Club has been on an incredible ride over the last decade. In the grand scheme of things we may have appeared to be just another minor provincial club, one of many, but to the fans the club has meant everything and more. The crux of the matter is that when we were offered the Liberty Stadium in 2005 it was ample enough and gladly received with both hands. Things change in an instant in sport and the ambition of the board coupled with key decisions have led the club to grow exponentially in a way many would never have dreamed of. As of May 2011, Swansea City is no longer a provincial club. It is a worldwide brand up with the big boys and with an opportunity to really take advantage of its sporting standing to transform the community it is the very beating heart of.
We have a ground with a current maximum of capacity of 20,532 whilst our current average annual attendance’s in recent memory have been 15,186, 15,407, 15,507 and after promotion to the biggest sporting league on the Globe 19.930. The sudden leap is clear and with the stadium not being able to accommodate any more Swans fans this has led to a regularly farce surrounding the weekly scramble for match tickets. In the summer there were queues around the stadium as many attempted in vain to obtain a Season Ticket and rumours abound there are up to 6,000 people on a waiting list for next season already. The maths is simple; the Liberty Stadium cant currently cope with demand and matters will reach a head should the club continue to grow off the field to match their on the field success. This naturally leads to discussion on ground expansion, something vital to ensuring the club gains not only maximum support in the stands but additionally maximum revenue in the bank. Of course, this increased support for the football club has also led to other logistical problems which any person whom has attended a recent match at the ground can only attest to. Parking is an issue despite attempted alleviations by the Club and Authorities and many fans and shoppers find themselves trapped in traffic chaos for over an hour post-game. Whilst increased attendances are a must for the club to continue prosper, so is the acceptance that any impediment in the way will only drastically escalate any traffic issues around the area.
It is into this situation that the Council have effectively cast aside any ambitions to see the region grown on a national scale through the effective administration of the Football Club on its own doorstep by drafting in yet another “get-rich-quick” type scheme that typifies the McDonald’s corporation. Much of the land surrounding the Liberty is owned by the neighbouring Morfa Retail Park including a sizeable plot of land adjacent to the Stadium’s South Stand. With a car park that has been zoned off in recent memory creating not only an eye sore but an annoying lack of vehicular utilisation for many fans, this land has repeatedly been put forward as a clear possibility in plans for expansion. Whether or not it is owned by the Retail park is surely irrelevant. As it is currently not being used there has always been the possibility of the club acquiring the land itself for its own purpose. That is to say, it was possible to acquire up until the Council sold its soul and its community to the all-powerful McDonald’s conglomerate.
What is particularly galling to Swans fans whom have been slapped in the face by a very Council many would have helped vote into office is the sheer arrogance of such a collective. The application appears to have been submitted back in May 2011 and initially recommended for rejection by the Council’s OWN planning committee. How many personal applications once recommended for rejection never again see the light of day? If recommended for rejection, then there are clearly satisfactory reasons for reaching such a conclusion. Liberty Stadium Management Committee themselves also objected for this on grounds of Pollution, increased Traffic and even more food outlets in a tight area already consisting of Pizza Hut, KFC, Rossi’s, Harvesters and Frankie and Benny’s. Despite the recommendation of the Planning officers and the clear objections from a sizeable business in the area, the Council overruled all decisions in a vote 8-1 and made a final, binding decision on 7th February 2012. They are now refusing to accept any objections or appeals, branding their decision final for yet another McDonald’s in the City and are instead palming off supporters fears on twitter to an alternative account. The Twitter account @DemocracyatCCS simply has a statement saying “Liberty Stadium/McDonald’s Planning App was granted on 07/02/2012 – as the decision has been made the Authority are unable to take comments”. There are currently McDonald’s in the City Centre, Fabian Way, Junction 47 Penllegaer, Cwmdu and Morrison and it is hard to justify yet another outlet in the area. Is the demand really that high for a McFlurry and Mc Nuggets? The planning officers stated that a new drive-thru land, parking and access points would “accentuate the cramped nature of the site layout” and “compromise pedestrian movement”. That is, more than it is already.
Of course, Swansea East MP Sian James disagrees, proudly flaunting that this new McDonald’s will amazingly create 60 jobs in the area whilst seemingly oblivious to the success a football club generates for the immediate area. Millions of Pounds in tourism, World Wide exposure, thousands of extra fans in the area all don’t compete with a few hundred people a week buying a cheap burger. The inadequacy of understanding simple economics is incredible to say least, as is grasping at immediate reward over long term gains on a larger scale. McDonald’s benefit’s McDonald’s. Swansea City FC will benefit South Wales. Then again Sian James is a member of the same party that in August attempted to extort more rent of the Swans in the very same sentence as congratulating them on their achievements. What a baffling way to endear themselves to a fan base numbering at least 20,000 people in their electorate.
Swansea City Football Club is the jewel in the crown of the region and should be protected, encouraged and supported at all costs by those in power. They forget that WE voted these people in to speak for US. Whether we actually expand or not is not the issue, it is that we are considering expanding and therefore should be given an appropriate time to set up plans for this with the help of a Council for whom we as a club are indirectly helping with our success. Let us put it to the Council, what should happen a decade down the line when Swansea City potentially have to leave the Stadium due to a lack of help from this council. What will they do with such a big empty White Elephant? I’m sure that little McDonald’s next to it encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle will be worth it to the out of work ex-councillors.
Perhaps it’s best to end this with some choice words from Swansea City Chairman Huw Jenkins whom, as per usual, hits the nail on the head of the matter. “The club’s board of directors was shocked and disappointed at the short sightedness of this decision. The local authority was well aware of our concerns and objections for a fast food outlet on the perimeter of the stadium and it remains to be seen whether the decision will have a detrimental effect for the further expansion plans we have for the Liberty Stadium. Everyone is well aware that we have already started exploring the possibility of increasing the capacity at the stadium, improve fan facilities and car parking. We were already working on plans”
“There are thousands of supporters who would love to watch the Swans in action in the Premier League and we are keen to facilitate that. This decision may jeopardise that opportunity now for the people of Swansea. Also, to increase traffic in the area on match and non-match days is baffling to say the least, especially considering we have been in constant dialogue with the council to alleviate and improve traffic congestion around the stadium. Swansea as a city has made too many short-term decisions over the years. Again the view of creating a handful of jobs is more important than the development of the Liberty Stadium and the overall growth of the city that Premier League football can promote and deliver. The expansion of the Liberty Stadium, its facilities and the long term growth and success of the football club will create far more jobs than another McDonalds. The council have been shouting from the rooftops since Swansea City gained promotion to the Premier League about the massive benefits it has brought to the city in terms of business and tourism. Yet they make a decision which goes against everything they have been preaching. It’s baffling. Yet again it seems to be a decision that fails to put the best interests of the community first and typifies why Swansea as a city has failed to grow and develop over the years”.
The Swansea City fans are rightfully keen to see that their club gets all the necessary opportunities to grow and put their hometown on the map and have therefore created a petition. Please visit the Facebook page “No To McDonalds Behind the South Stand” set up by the Swans trust to sign the petition doing the rounds and sign the petition here http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/notomcdonalds/signatures. Together we can voice our displeasure at an act that threatens the direct growth of our Club after all, Who Are We?!