Yesterday Barnet FC were relegated to the Conference. I rather suspect that there will be a lot of rather pleased local Conservative Councillors. Under the Labour/Lib Dem administration in power until 2002, the club was well supported by the Council and worked together to try and build a footballing legacy. The local Conservatives were deeply suspicious of this and used this "cosy relationship" as stick to try and beat the outgoing regime with. An audit inspection of the sale of Underhill was launched by the new administration, hoping to find a set of "financial irregularities" with which to beat the outgoing regime. They spent nearly £1 million on this witch hunt and all they achieved was to line the pockets of a lot of accountants and lawyers. After years of investigations, the report was "inconclusive".
The relationship between the council and the club became toxic. Barnet for many years wanted to move to a 10,000 seat stadium at Copthall. The Tories opposed this by hook or by crook. At the last election, their leaflets were packed with lies about the Lib Dems proposing a new stadium for football at Copthall. This won the Tories the Mill Hill Ward. What they didn't tell voters was that Saracens RFC would move in and that virtually the whole of Mill Hill would be in parking lockdown every other Saturday of the Rugby season. They also neglected to tell anyone that Saracens need a 15,000 seat stadium for Heineken Cup games.
Now don't get me wrong, I hope Saracens is a success. I may be being controversial and say I hope they get the Stadium upgrade as well. The 10,000 current visitors have not caused gridlock. The council could turn around to Saracens and say "yes, you can have the extra capacity, if you install electronic parking signs that will restrict the parking CPZ to 1 hour". Saracens would be more than happy to comply.
Sadly the football club that had been in Barnet for many years, has been starved of investment due to the constraints of Underhill. The result is that they were relegated yesterday and that they are moving to the Hive in Harrow next season. Make no mistake, a different regime would have a totally different policy and would make it work for everyone. Look at Manchester City Council. They worked with Manchester City FC to build a new stadium, a new tram line, a massive sporting complex and have regenerated a really run down part of the city. Even better the club has attracted wealthy buyers and has started winning silverware. That is what an enlightened council can achieve.
Barnet Council could have worked with the Mayor and TFL to extend the Northern Line to the ground. This area also has three large schools in the proximity, which would benefit from better transport connections. It would remove traffic an be good for commuters.
The new Allianz Park stadium is magnificent. It is something everyone locally should be proud of. It offers world class Athletics training facilities as well as Rugby. I could see a situation where eventually Barnet FC share the ground with Saracens. It makes perfect sense for such resources to be used and having the club back in the Borough would be welcomed by all football supporters.
That will only happen when this Conservative administration is replaced by one which cares about the locality. Lets hope that will happen in May 2014