Aberdeen’s incoming chairman, Dave Cormack, has admitted that staying at Pittodrie remains an option for the Scottish Premiership football club as it continues to grapple with funding its proposed new stadium.
Aberdeen this week unveiled significant changes to the club’s structure following the announcement of a strategic partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Atlanta United. AMB Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of Atlanta United, is investing £2m (€2.34m/$2.57m) into Aberdeen as part of a new package of investment, led by Cormack, totalling £5m. This will provide working capital for the club’s day to day operations.
As part of Atlanta’s investment and the partnership arrangement, Darren Eales, the president of the MLS club and former executive director of English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur, will join Aberdeen’s board of directors. Aberdeen’s current chairman, Stewart Milne, along with other directors, will step down with Cormack set to replace him after the club’s AGM on December 16.
The new investment seeks to put Aberdeen on a firmer financial footing over the next few years, which Cormack believes is critical as it looks to meet future challenges, continue to invest in the football operation and raise funds for the new stadium.
He said: “The £5m that has come in is working capital is really because we recognise that we want to be able to see as we evaluate clearly the consulting we go through for Kingsford and the (new) stadium. It is important that we have cash flow for day to day operations. For example, Kingsford is going to cost us £750,000 a year to run. Over four years that is £3m that we need to cover there.”
Earlier this month, AFL Architects was appointed to carry out a design and operational review of the new stadium. The club’s new 20,000-seat stadium is expected to cost £45m, with the wide-ranging complex to also incorporate a training centre, community hub and youth development academy.
In March, Aberdeen was given the green light to press forward with the plans after a judge threw out a legal challenge against the project. Work on the first phase of the scheme commenced in April 2018 but the No Kingsford Stadium group had argued that the chosen site ventured into green belt land.
Aberdeen City Council contested the action and the Court of Session ruled that it was not at fault when granting planning permission for the project. Aberdeen has played at Pittodrie since the club’s formation in 1903 and Cormack explained the club could yet be forced to stay, with the delivery date for a new home being knocked back to 2023.
Cormack said, according to Scottish newspaper the Daily Record: “The 2023 date is moveable. You can never say never (with regards Pittodrie) and if we can’t raise the money then we can’t do it but we are confident our best opportunity is to move out to Kingsford.
“Listen, £45m is a lot to raise and if you look at our recent report we’ve had Pittodrie valued recently and there is no point in us trying to sell. We wouldn’t maximise the value of Pittodrie in the current downturn.
“We are working with consultants in London and we have a significant amount of money lined up from companies ready to invest. We also want Atlanta United to take a look at what the stadium would look like and the real costs associated with it. Nobody can commit to money that isn’t there today but a new stadium is our best option.”
Cormack has compared Aberdeen’s plans to the redevelopment work carried out by Premiership rival Heart of Midlothian, stating that it would cost more to renovate Pittodrie than develop a new stadium. He added: “Let’s say we got £15m for the sale of Pittodrie. Hearts spent £18m from building their new stand.
“It would cost us £55m to redevelop the stands here so when you weigh that up against £45m for a custom-built stadium… and you have reduced the actual cost to £30m due to the sale of Pittodrie then that’s a £25m difference at Kingsford. Plus, we think we can raise £3-5m more of income which will allow us to invest in the team.”
Image: Aberdeen FC