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Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 12:49 UK

Cardiff's grounds for optimism

Coca Cola Championship: Cardiff City v Scunthorpe United
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium Date: Saturday, 8 August Kick-off: 1500 BST

Cardiff City's new stadium

By Peter Shuttleworth

A chequered history littered with false dawns accounts for the ingrained scepticism among the Cardiff City faithful.

The Bluebirds have all too often had their hopes raised only to be followed by the almost inevitable floods of tears from heartbroken supporters.

Remember, former chairman Sam Hammam promised they would be one day be bigger than Barcelona.

Cardiff's unsuccessful Championship top-six charge of last term, when the Welsh club snatched play-off failure from the jaws of glory with less than 15 minutes of the campaign remaining, is further proof.

Cardiff City's new stadium
Our annual turnover at Ninian Park was between £8m and £9m. That doesn't even cover our wage bill. But moving to this new stadium, we should double our turnover which gives us an opportunity to compete

Cardiff City director Steve Borley

But a football "miracle" has finally blessed the Bluebirds.

The debt-ridden club's Cardiff City Stadium, against all of the financial odds, will host its first competitive game on Saturday when Scunthorpe United are the first league visitors to the new £50m arena.

A new home to replace the ramshackled Ninian Park had been long promised but fans feared the pledge would merely be another cruel fantasy.

One local journalist even vowed to bare his backside should the new stadium somehow become a reality. Well, now it is squeaky-bum time for that hack.

"No-one believed this day would ever happen," said boss Dave Jones, who has consistently had to sell his prized assets to keep the club afloat.

"And I have to admit that 18 months ago I never thought it was going to happen but the board have delivered a new stadium."

And director Steve Borley, who helped orchestrate Cardiff's new stadium project, vows: "I think with this project it has been a case of seeing is believing. Now the stadium is here, it is a dawn of a new era for Cardiff City."

The club have survived controversial chairmen, a flirtation with administration - dodging the dreaded consequences by just 15 minutes - and have restructured their estimated £30m debt in the backdrop of a worldwide economic recession.

Now the one-time paupers boast a home fit for footballing princes, a multi-purpose arena that has the potential to give Cardiff the financial clout to fight for Premier League promotion with the Championship's super-rich royalty.

"Our annual turnover at Ninian Park was between £8m and £9m," revealed Borley.

Jones's Cardiff City Stadium tour

"That doesn't even cover our wage bill. But moving to this new stadium, we should double our turnover which gives us an opportunity to compete with teams whose turnover is in excess of £20m.

"If we want to be a successful Championship side with aspirations to play in the Premier League, then you can only do that with a business that generates the income to have a decent-size wage bill."

Lifelong Cardiff fan Borley had to sit back and let Jones sell star players such as Danny Gabbidon, James Collins, Cameron Jerome, Glenn Loovens, Chris Gunter and Aaron Ramsey just to balance the books because Ninian Park lacked the facilities to be a cash generator.

As he says: "It is not all about selling players - you can only do that for so long.

"You have to have a business that allows you to run a decent-size wage bill and at the same time keep together a talented group of players that help you improve as a team.

"The venue is more than about playing 25-odd football games there a season.

Cardiff City's new stadium
We have a Premier League ground - now the hardest thing is getting a Premier League team to grace it

Cardiff City boss Dave Jones

"Our business should not be centred around what happens on a Saturday afternoon, it must be based on maximising each of the stadium's 365 trading days a year.

"We must use our conference and hospitality facilities to match our competitors in our division. That was not possible at Ninian Park.

"When I first joined the Cardiff board in 1996, I would have not entertained the idea of leaving Ninian Park as it was our home.

"But having been inside the club, I knew how Ninian Park restricted the development of the business.

"Anyway, I reckon if you blow Ninian Park enough times, it will fall down.

"It is falling apart at the seams as the steelwork is rusted and the building has concrete cancer. It's not surprising as large parts of that stadium have been there for more than 80 or 90 years.

"We endured so many failures and so many heartaches at the old place, hopefully moving home can be the catalyst for a new beginning in the chronicles of Cardiff City."

The Welsh capital's football club will share their state-of-the-art 26,000-capacity stadium with the city's rugby region because the Cardiff Blues have moved from the Arms Park to become tenants at the Cardiff City Stadium.

606: DEBATE
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The club that boss Dave Jones once famously dubbed "Rag Bag Rovers" has been transformed as the new stadium adds to their plush new training facilities in the Vale of Glamorgan.

"We're certainly not the poor relations any more," said Jones.

"The debt hasn't gone away and we still have to wheel and deal. But it's a whole lot easier attracting prospective new signings to this club now it has top-class facilities.

"We have a Premier League ground - now the hardest thing is getting a Premier League team to grace it."

The Cardiff board has delivered off the pitch - now it is the team's turn to produce on it.



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see also
Bluebirds target happier ending
03 Aug 09 |  Cardiff
50m Cardiff City Stadium opens
22 Jul 09 |  Wales
Fans' farewell Ninian Park party
16 May 09 |  South east
Ninian farewell falls flat
26 Apr 09 |  Cardiff
Ten top Ninian Park memories
22 Apr 09 |  Cardiff
Farewell Ninian Park
20 Apr 09 |  Cardiff
Turf cut at new Cardiff stadium
02 Nov 07 |  Wales
Hammam accused of Cardiff 'greed'
23 Dec 06 |  Cardiff
New boost for Bluebirds' stadium
27 Nov 06 |  South east
Cardiff set out new stadium plans
24 Oct 06 |  Cardiff
Cardiff debt deal ends Hammam era
22 Dec 06 |  Wales
Ridsdale backed in Leeds fall-out
21 Aug 06 |  Cardiff
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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