Hussain AlSaeed, co-owner of Bristol Rovers, has revealed that the League One football club is no longer considering building a new stadium in the Fruit Market area of the city.
The Fruit Market site emerged as a possible location for a new stadium back in August 2019. At the time, Rovers president Waed Al-Qadi said that the club was putting together a planning application for a potential new venue.
It came after Al-Qadi had said that the club was assessing various options to resolve its long-held goal of developing a new ground. In 2017, Rovers ditched plans to build a stadium at the University of West of England (UWE) after a financial agreement could not be reached.
The Fruit Market then emerged as a possible site, but AlSaeed has now said that attention will turn to redeveloping the Memorial Stadium, the club’s home since 1996, as no deal can be struck. The Fruit Market site is owned by various parties and shareholders, including Total Produce.
In an interview with BBC Radio Bristol, AlSaaed said: “It has changed. It was on the table, but it wasn’t really completely on the table. That’s what we thought when we took over.
“After a meeting or two, we thought that a deal wasn’t really close. We tried to work with the developer, we tried to accommodate what they required. But we thought that was going nowhere so now we are going to concentrate on developing the Memorial Stadium, so we don’t have to leave it.”
The Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 12,300. The club was forced to start the season with the ground partially closed, with the new South Stand project delayed due to “issues outside of the club’s control”.
Rovers announced in April that the South Stand would undergo renovation work during the summer, with the plans seeing the old South and Southwest Stand removed and replaced with one solid-roof structure. The new-look stand was scheduled to be completed over the summer, but planning permission is yet to be received.
“The South Stand is taking a lot of our time, but hopefully we’re getting towards the end,” AlSaaed added.
“I’d like to thank the supporters for their understanding with us over this and with the council in order to speed up the approval for us. We’re getting closer and closer to finishing that. That’ll be the first target for us. Then we are going to continue to develop the Memorial Stadium.
“I would like the capacity to be 18,000 but it may be very difficult to go to that number. To be realistic, it will be somewhere between 16 and 17,000.”
Bristol Live has reported today (Monday) that the South Stand project could be approved at a council meeting on November 15.