Marine CEO addresses National League North ground grading concerns as stadium relocation timeline offered

General view of Marine stadium

Marine chief executive James Leary has rubbished suggestions that their Rossett Park stadium will fail ground gradings, following promotion to the National League North.

Attendances at the Marine Travel Arena have sky-rocketed since 2021 and accompanied by their success, fans are flocking to College Road to see Neil Young’s side in action. 

Last season, they averaged 1,250 at their home matches – the fourth highest in the Northern Premier League – which is more than 14 clubs at step three, including rivals Warrington Town (1,183), Chorley (1,124) and Southport (1,070). 

Their win over Macclesfield in the playoff final at the beginning of May saw them promoted to the league for the first time and their joint-highest place in the football pyramid – after the restructuring of non-league. 

Marine won the Northern Premier League in back-to-back years between 1994 and 1995 but failed to earn promotion due to their ground. In the years since work has been ongoing to help make the stadium adequate for the level – their well-publicised FA Cup clash with Tottenham Hotspur helping the club off the field. 

The capacity for the Marine Travel Area is said to be in the region of 3,058. For Marine’s Liverpool Senior Cup final win over City of Liverpool, the attendance was two shy of 1,900 – with the playoff semi-final against Warrington Rylands attracting 1,700.

Leary revealed to Off The Park that there are no fears over the suitability of the stadium in the National League North. Should they defy expectations and qualify for the playoffs, they would need to add a small number of seats around the ground – work that is set to get underway in time for the beginning of their historic campaign.

He said: “For the National League North we’re already compliant, there’s no issues, all of the work we’ve done in the last 10 to 15 years that’s to the standard of the National League North. 

“The only thing we have to do, if we want to compete in the playoffs, we have to add 100 seats. This summer, we’re looking to add a stand in the far corner with 130 seats so if we were in the position to get into the playoffs, we can compete. 

“The grounds fine, if we don’t get promoted we’ll stay in the National League North, our ground is compliant, if we get promoted – without jumping ahead – we would have to hit a certain criteria and that would be a challenge which is why we’re looking to move. 

“But we would be able to get promoted if we are successful this year.”

The club capitalised on the excitement caused by their promotion to the National League North and revealed that plans are underway to relocate the ground to one of three locations – after extensive discussions with Sefton Council and planning across a number of years.

On May 14, Leary confirmed in a press release published on the club website that they were looking to build a new “purpose-built” stadium to enhance community sports and recreational facilities in the area. To do so, 16 local sites had been whittled down to three and an investment of £5million had to be raised. 

The tweet confirming the news received over 139,000 views and was liked by 244 users on X. Leary said: “It’s been outstanding, it really has gone viral, it got massive attention and the vast majority of people were positive about the potential. 

“The hardwork started a few years but the hardwork is going to start as we get to closer to securing land first and foremost, then into planning and then fundraising. 

“We’re taking it step-by-step, we want to do everything as efficiently as we can so it doesn’t drag on longer than it needs to and people are in the loop as we start to look to do a fan consultation further down the line – that’s a stage we want to get to. 

“People understand attendances have increased so much that it is limited in terms of where it is and where it can get to, that’s why the promotion has accelerated the view to explore the move. Hopefully it will be something people are excited by, we’ll be working hard to get it over the line.”

The three sites for possible redevelopment aren’t public knowledge but it hasn’t stopped a wave of speculation. But all of the options are in the Crosby area, within the L23 postcode. 

The Mariners CEO says it is a slow-process but one that they’re navigating through with a fine-tooth comb. He continued: “All three of them we like, if I told you the three, there’s advantages and disadvantages to them all. 

“It’s a case of continuing to work with the different parties involved in the sites to the point where we get one that we are confident can get through planning and get ownership of the land.

“It is (a slow process) but the good thing is all the parties we’re speaking to are trying to progress it as much as we can. 

“We’re getting architecture drawings done, we’ve had meetings with planning consultants, we’re trying to bring it on as much as we can but there’s three key parts and it can fall down at any stage. 

“One, securing the land, two, getting it through planning and three the funding. I’m trying to make sure that firstly with the land, we can get it over the line and take it one a step-by-step basis. 

“From the press release, I’ve had over 100 emails, it’s some people who want to get involved, some people who are experts in that trade, some who have asked how they can donate,” he added. “There’s positive conversations, I’m talking to more and more people and exploring opportunities coming, see where we end up.”

Marine’s home has transformed since COVID after investing their revenue into infrastructure and transforming the clubhouse, forming a bar, bistro and function room. Football-wise, there is year-round use of their 3G facility to lessen the impact of postponing matches due to unplayable surfaces. 

For the new stadium, it needs to pass the relevant authoritative blocks such as securing the land, earning permission to build and funding – with a six-figure target to reach. 

Leary said in his press release that the current facility is something that they ‘do not want to lose, although is funding dependent’. He says selling the ground is the last option on a extensive list of opportunities for funding.

“For me, it’s absolutely a last resort (to sell MTA to fund new ground),” he began. “We’ve put just under £1million into the facility, at this time we don’t want to lose it, it’s an important part of the community and it’s great for Marine Football Club how it’s grown, it’s in the heart of Crosby so 100 percent I do not want to lose this whatsoever. 

“There’s a lot of money to raise so if we can be successful on the land, if we can get it through planning then it’s a job to box off the full five £5million. 

“At the moment I’ve got a list of avenues that I’m going to explore, if I’m not successful then that is the last resort that we could have to sell this stadium but I have a lot of avenues I’m trying to explore without needing to resort to it.”

In the five-year plan that they set out in 2019, they have already achieved two promotions in three full seasons of football. Negotiations over stadium redevelopment and relocation began in the last two years. 

They are now in a crucial period within the early stages of their hopes to bring a 5,000-capacity stadium to North Liverpool. Already, there are hopes to see the completion within three years. 

Leary said: “I’d like to, if you’re going to pin me to a number, to do it in three years. I had this conversation, with the council, it depends we can the land over the line – if we get that over the line.

“There’s planning, we’ve had conversations and hopefully we can progress it as quickly as we possibly can then it’s how quickly can we get the funding. Our target is three years, we’ll see where we get to.”

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