You probably know the club which was planned as the world’s first online-ran football team. It didn’t work, but now they’re making bold plans at making it in a more common way.
The stadium in Northfleet (eastern outskirts of London) lies in an industrial location just 400 meters from the Thames. Local club has been constantly using the site since 1905. Initially as Northfleet United, then Gravesend & Northfleet FC and now Ebbsfleet United, the side had a different ground only in its earliest days, back in the 19th century. Temporary hosts that played at least one season here include Dartford FC, Gillingham FC and Charlton Athletic reserves.
Ebbsfleet United became recognized worldwide in 2007 as the first ever football club to be managed by online users. This brought a publicity boost and initially helped gather funds, but in 2013 the team went back to traditional managing and ownership system.
Current stadium resembles one that began operation here a century back. The western grandstand is a covered terrace with partially wooden structure. Similar section in the east plays the role of main grandstand with player infrastructure and parking. The south end is also covered and since 2006 seated. It’s mostly occupied by local fans, while away teams are usually allocated in the north, where the only open terrace stands.
Before the great reform of 1990s the stadium was able to hold over 10,000 people. All-time high came in 1963, when the local side fought Sunderland in the FA Cup. Official number for the game is at over 12,000. Since the conversion to seats largest recorded crowd is 4,068 at the Canvey Island game in 2002.
Since 2009 the club has been working to redevelop the stadium, which is nearing the end of its lifespan. Initial plans were rejected by local authorities, but a second attempt in early 2015 brought support from the city council.
In fact, Ebbsfleet filed their planning application on January 23, giving the club and local authorities a month for consultations. If everything goes as planned this time, it should take 3 years and £3.5 million ($5.3m / €4.7m) to deliver the plan.
The current concept is slightly less impressive than that from 2009 (compared above), but still envisages a phased development of Stonebridge Stadium. First phase is bringing down and rebuilding the west side, because the current structure is expected to last until 2017 at the latest. This section is to become the new main grandstand with a single tier of seats, but also a second floor with skyboxes and conference facilities.
The south end would follow with a section having two tiers for fans and room for further development. North and east stands would be considerably smaller with only a few rows and modest roof over them. Still, with all sides developed, the stadium would have a continuous ring of stands with 6,000 capacity and 4,000 of that number seated.
The impressive concept was created at Alexander Sedgley, famous for another local ground, the wooden Princes’ Park in Dartford. It should take no longer than 3 years to build.