Cobblers chairman David Cardoza faced the music and the club’s supporters at the regular open forum at Sixfields on Thursday night.
It has been a difficult start to the season on and off the pitch at Northampton, and Cardoza faced plenty of questions from fans regarding the team’s poor start to the season, the playing budget, allowing Coventry City to rent the Sixfields facilities and much more.
Cardoza, as always, was honest and open in his answers to every question he faced, and our man Jefferson Lake was on hand to document what happened.
Here, in the first of a two-part special, we publish every question put to Cardoza, and every answer he made, in full.
Open Forum Q&A
DC: I’d like to start by talking about the redevelopment and by letting you know what is happening with the £12m loan from the council - £4.5m of that will be used for the hotel and £7.5m for the stadium.
The hotel will actually cost more like £6m so we’re going to have to bring some cash in from somewhere.
We have a planning meeting on Tuesday with a view to applying for planning permission later this month, after that it’s 10-12 weeks before we get the permission confirmed.
We’re not behind schedule but we have made one or two changes to what we want to do; the original plan was to do the east stand first with the boxes, the hotel and the conference centre over there but that may take longer so we looked at the west stand as an option for some of the boxes.
That turned out to be a very expensive option and we’d lose a lot of space where we currently have a lot of season-ticket holders, we’d essentially be losing the entire top tier of the stand to corporate boxes.
We’re waiting for the final drawings to come back but everything is on schedule. If we were doing the west stand it would have been complete by August 2014 but because the east stand needs to be totally rebuilt it will take longer than that.
Question: How will the surrounding area be affected?
DC: The hotel will be roughly where the study centre is now and the conference centre will be next to that. We will have to develop the area further on from that to pay for the stadium and that will be housing and retail.
The site is built on a waste disposal tip and is contaminated but we think we’ve worked out how we can deal with that.
Q: Have you visited any other facilities or grounds to see what you could do here, and if so which ones did you like?
DC: We like it at Shrewsbury, Rotherham and Burton, they are all very well done. Every boardroom that we are in, we’re asking people what we should and shouldn’t do.
Q: Is the loan to be repaid over five years?
DC: It’s difficult to say over what period it will be repaid until we have planning permission. The aim is for the football club to be debt free but that could happen at any time in the next 25 years.
Q: Will any of the players be sold to pay the debt off quicker?
DC: No, of course not. The budget has not come down to repay this loan. There would be no point us getting the redevelopment and making all these plans to then go and kill the product on the pitch.
Q: What will the capacity of the redeveloped ground be?
DC: We want to be around the 10,000 mark.
Q: What is going to happen to the facilities in the west stand, the club shop, the supporters’ bar etc?
DC: We are keeping the restaurant as a conferencing facility and we’ve had conversations about making it into three or four rooms and things like that. A lot of the rest of it won’t be touched.
Q: Can anything be done about the sun in the east stand?
DC: I’m told it can be. The stand won’t be the most aesthetically pleasing perhaps but it will eliminate that glare for everyone in it, bar the first few rows. The sun in that stand is something that everyone comments on.
Q: Will the club look to take the catering in-house?
DC: Lindleys do the kiosks and we do the restaurant, we have our own chefs for that and they are very good. Lindleys do a lot of clubs and they don’t charge us any more than they do anyone else.
Their deal expires in 18 months and it will be going out to tender so we’re looking at maybe making some changes there to give people more options.
Q: Where will the directors sit in the redeveloped stadium?
DC: I think this is the only stadium in the country where the directors are quite literally in among the fans. I haven’t got a problem with people having a go at me but ideally I don’t want that to happen while the game is going on. We’ll probably be moving to the east stand.
Q: Do you have any regrets about the Coventry City deal?
DC: No, because Coventry approached us and we cleared it with the Football League – we wouldn’t have been able to do it if the Football League hadn’t agreed to it.
I have to say working with them has been brilliant, they’ve got some fantastic staff and we have been paid on time and sometimes even early. They love the way we have treated them.
If I thought the club would be at risk at any point, I wouldn’t have done the deal. It generates money for the club and with that and the redevelopment, it puts us in a really strong position.
It won’t be life-changing this season but it helps when you’ve got to do things like produce business plans to give to the council, and things like that.
Q: If Coventry were to find a place to play back in Coventry in the next three years would we let them out of the deal they have for Sixfields?
DC: There is a break clause after every year. I don’t really want to get into Coventry’s situation too much but their arrangement at their old ground was crucifying them. They were paying £1.5m a year in rent and making no money from match days; the only way a club can move forward is if it can earn money from its assets.
Part two of the Cardoza Q&A to follow...