How redeveloped Ashton Gate stadium fits into Jon Lansdown's vision for Bristol City
Jon Lansdown has spoken for the first time of his bold vision for Bristol City.
The son of Robins owner and majority shareholder Steve Lansdown, City's managing director of football has identified five fundamental pillars that he believes will safeguard the club's long-term future.
On the day City announced bringing forward alternative plans to redevelop Ashton Gate, Lansdown talked exclusively to The Post about the off-field plans he hopes will make the club a major force on it.
Transforming Ashton Gate, the club's spiritual home for more than 100 years, into a modern 26,000 all-seat facility is just one strand of an overall strategy designed to return City to profitability and create a football club supporters can be proud of.
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As outlined by Lansdown himself, his five pillars for future success are:
1. Community engagement
2. Academy and youth development
3. Player recruitment and talent identification
4. Financial prudence and control
5. Modern facilities
Lansdown and his fellow directors have already taken steps to implement radical new policies to improve performance in the first four of these five areas.
Today's announcement of an ambitious £40m scheme to redevelop Ashton Gate into a multi-purpose stadium hosting football and rugby by 2017 provides supporters with an overall picture of where the club is headed for the first time.
Speaking on behalf of the Ashton Gate board, Lansdown told The Post: "Ashton Gate has been the club's spiritual home for more than 100 years and these plans would improve and enhance the facilities in readiness for the next 100 years.
"Modern stadium facilities are a key pillar for the club, closely aligned with our community engagement, youth development, recruitment and financial prudence.
"This redevelopment plan is testament to all of that."
For now at least, City will continue to explore the possibility of building a new 30,000 all-seat stadium at nearby Ashton Vale, a project first launched in December 2007.
But the redevelopment of Ashton Gate represents a viable alternative should the landowners be unable to build a new stadium at Ashton Vale.
City are awaiting the outcome of a second inquiry into the Ashton Vale scheme later this year and Lansdown confirmed: "The landowners of Ashton Vale remain very confident they will be successful in October.
"But we need to make sure we have an alternative as, regardless of where it is sited, the club needs a new stadium. We have had many frustrations and difficulties in our attempt to build a new stadium on Ashton Vale.
"These plans for Ashton Gate give us a viable alternative should we be unable to, or choose not to, proceed on Ashton Vale.
"The board has been working hard over the last six months to bring this alternative plan forward, having thoroughly reviewed a number of alternative options around the city.
"This proposal to redevelop Ashton Gate is the stand-out option. It means we now have a way forward in regard to a new stadium."
City have already taken steps to improve facilities elsewhere, developing a state-of-the-art training ground at Failand and moving their Academy set-up into a new facility at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College at Filton in north Bristol. The Ashton Gate project is an extension of these plans.
City's administrative staff would all be housed in new offices in the Atyeo Stand at a revamped Ashton Gate, while football staff would all be based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital School site at Failand.
Lansdown and his fellow directors have previously highlighted the importance of up-grading their Academy and investing in youth development so as to produce more of their own players in the future.
A number of changes in terms of organisation and personnel have already been made and the Robins are hoping to attain Football Association Category Two status for their Academy next season.
Bristol City's Community Trust is now in touch with more than 50,000 children in the region and the club will continue to invest money in engaging local people and growing their roots.
Chairman Keith Dawe has recently been given a remit to improve player recruitment and talent spotting, ensuring City find the right player, at the right age and at the right price in future.
The acquisition during the January transfer window of midfielder Liam Kelly and right-back Brendan Moloney from Kilmarnock and Nottingham Forest respectively prove beyond doubt that the new strategy is now up and running.
New head coach Sean O'Driscoll has bought into City's recruitment strategy and value for money has been adopted as an underlying principle in the club's attempts to reduce a wage bill that was in excess of £18m during the financial year ended May 31, 2012.
With Financial Fair Play due to come into force at the start of next season, City must cut their cloth accordingly if they are to satisfy the new requirements.
The challenge for the future is to cut costs at the same time as improving revenue streams.
Under Financial Fair Play, wages cannot exceed 60 per cent of a club's revenue.
Ashton Gate in its current guise makes City around £11m in profits each year. Initial estimates suggest a redeveloped stadium on the same site could push that figure up towards the £20m mark.
In short, the more the club earns, the more it can spend on signing players.
With that in mind, the decision to move Bristol Rugby Club into a revamped Ashton Gate makes sound economic sense, given that one facility will drive two revenue streams.