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Worcester City must take heed of the exiled Tigers’ plight
AT a time when Worcester City are preparing to enter a ground-share agreement, there may be one or two nervous glances towards the plight of Gloucester City.
Worcester’s M5 corridor rivals were faced with eviction from Whaddon Road by landlords Cheltenham Town at the end of this month until an outstanding £17,000 debt was paid by a benefactor.
But the Tigers, homeless since their Meadow Park stadium was ruined by floods in 2007, could still be relegated from Blue Square Bet North if they haven’t renewed their deal with the Robins by March 31.
Looking at that situation, you could forgive Worcester officials and fans wondering just how tough life is going to be once they leave St George’s Lane for Kidderminster Harriers’ Aggborough base in the summer.
Yet if nothing else, City might be able to learn from Gloucester as they take a huge step into the unknown.
They might be surprised to discover that, despite the Tigers’ current predicament, being in exile might not be all bad.
After all, Gloucester have been away from their home city for six seasons — also sharing at Forest Green and Cirencester Town — and in that time have won promotion to the second tier of the non-league pyramid.
Interestingly, their crowds have also not suffered as much as might be expected for a team without their own permament home and fans having to travel.
Dwindling crowds is one Worcester’s chief fears when they leave the Lane but Gloucester’s current average attendance of 320 is only 57 below that of their last season at Meadow Park.
Worcester have a much larger fanbase and will be hopeful of keeping a sizeable chunk through attractive season ticket deals.
Of course, the £1million backing of club owner Eamonn McGurk over a 16-year period, and with a a large sum going towards planning for a new home, has helped Gloucester’s transition smoother and his decision to stop that funding is one of the reasons they are beginning to feel the pinch.
Another down side in exile is the lack of a permanent home on the horizon. Gloucester’s much-trumpeted move back to a revamped Meadow Park appears to have floundered and there is no telling when a solution may be found.
Likewise, City’s proposed stadium at Nunnery Way is showing no signs of progress more than a year after planning permission was approved, notwithstanding the fact the club can’t actually afford to build it.
The supporters’ trust have come up with an alternative community ground at Perdiswell but best estimates put that at least two years away and plans have yet to be submitted to Worcester City Council.
Gloucester are approaching their seventh year in exile and who knows how many more they will face.
Putting the huge hurdle of capital gains tax to one side, Worcester would need to survive as a nomadic club until either a new ground comes to fruition or the contract with St Modwen expires in 2017.
Then they could get their hands on the £1.26million currently ear-marked for the land and infrastructure at Nunnery Way.
Nobody knows what the future holds for City but Gloucester’s experience will give them a good idea.