AFC Bournemouth – a concept ahead of its time

In 1970 AFC Bournemouth, an aspiring third division soccer club were getting some gates of 15,000 plus with seating for only 4,000 spectators in an elderly stand. A completely new stadium project had been conceived and approved by the local planning authority despite some initial planning difficulties in the local community (resolved by an intervention from Sports Minister Denis Howell). The first phase, a grandstand with 3,000 seats and standing for 4,000 had also been designed to include a new concept in soccer stadia.

Utilising the ground assets seven days a week was high on the agenda of all professional soccer clubs at that time and the Chairman of Bournemouth was impressed by the work Mike Halpin had done as part of the first DMS (Recreation) course at North London Polytechnic. Roy Pankhurst, later to join the Sports Council SW, having completed the second year DMS, took Mike Halpin’s work further, studying the Continental Soccer and Sports Club model. His input into the Bournemouth proposals was invaluable.

In no time at all a state-of-the-art grandstand was conceived. Employing the cable roof system, which had been used for the first time at the Munich Olympics, it became possible to accommodate a major sports centre in the under-croft of the new stand with no steelwork affecting sports facility spaces.

Support from the Sports Council was forthcoming, both with a major grant offered to the soccer club and a watching brief by Bob Wilson, the Arsenal player, who sat on the main Sports Council Committee. Visits by Denis Howell, Sports Minister, and Sir Stanley Rouse (Chairman of FIFA) confirmed the heightened interest in what had been put together by a small third division club.

Bournemouth decided to start work on the Grandstand/Sports Centre without building regulation approval which had seen a growing dispute between its Engineering/Architectural team and the Local Authority. Rapidly rising inflation saw the cost of the project beginning to take off.

A marketing scheme selling blocks of tickets with a “sports club” membership over a 4-year period had a very encouraging start. However, the impending national political crisis and industrial strife culminating in the three-day week was to see the cost of the project double overnight. In addition, work on site was finally halted by the Local Authority concerning the Building Regulation dispute regarding the design of the grandstand (focusing on a cable roof system conceived by world renowned Architect David Jawerth – his roof system had been used for the first time in this country in the construction of Billingham Forum).

Sadly, it was the departure of the Bournemouth Manager John Bond to Norwich with some of the club’s key players together with the deteriorating national situation saw the project put into “cold storage” with eventual demolition several years later. AFC Bournemouth nearly went out of business on several occasions over the next thirty years but eventually a new ground was commissioned in early 2000. No one envisaged that the Club was going to rise from the ashes from the depths of the Football League to entry into the Premier League in 2015. Now with a maximum capacity of circa 11,400 (the smallest ground by far in the PL) the grandstand of the 1970’s would have been just what the Club had ordered together with a possible different mix of sports facilities.


Mike Halpin   

Mike Halpin was Recreation Development Officer/Management Consultant (1971-1974) for Bournemouth FC’s Football and Community Project (using a DMS Dissertation on “Developing stadia as multi sports venues” based on the Continental

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