Former Foxes CEO Barrie Pierpoint has said that the club’s plans to expand their stadium capacity to 40,000 should have happened a long time ago.
It was recently announced that plans to increase the capacity of Leicester City’s King Power Stadium have been approved by local councillors.
But Pierpoint also had high ambitions for Leicester before their move away from Filbert Street in 2002. Speaking in his recent book, ‘Minding My Own Football Business’, which focuses on his time as CEO of the club, he discusses how he and some of the other Directors had plans to build a 40,000-seater stadium before the turn of the millennium.
“In the 1997/98 Premier League season, we had developed plans to build a brand new 40,000-seater stadium on Bede Island South. Our ambition was to completely redevelop the area with a retail park surrounding the stadium, and the Directors were satisfied that the stadium was affordable” said Pierpoint.
The brand-new stadium was designed to not only house top-level football, but also host other events such as boxing and concerts. Being the biggest stadium in the East Midlands, the venue was set to be the largest conference, banqueting, leisure, and entertainment centre in the region.
“We had shared our plans with the fans as it was important to me that our supporters were involved and that they were listened to. We’d also invited Gary Lineker to meet us and we presented the plans and a 3D model of the stadium which he was impressed by.”
The plans were also focused on improving aspects of the local community in Leicester, and included building a hotel, restaurant, retail outlets, a creche and a gymnasium nearby the new stadium.
Although, unfortunately for Pierpoint, plans for the new stadium fell apart after he left the club in 2000.
“I had the vision of Leicester City regularly selling out a 40,000 stadium, but sadly some of the Directors and myself began to face resistance from a minority of disruptive forces within the club.”
“We also faced concerns around the road system around the stadium and that the site would contain shops outside the city centre, so it was by no means plain sailing. But I passionately believe that we would have overcome these obstacles and delivered one of the best stadiums in the country” added Pierpoint.
“The disruptive element was led by a couple of Directors who felt that a 40,000 capacity was too big for our club, and they were concerned that the ground would be half-empty on match days. In reality, this was because they did not share the ambition of the rest of us.”
Prior to the start of the 2002/03 season, Leicester eventually completed a new stadium move to the 32,500-capacity Walkers Stadium.
However, Pierpoint believed that his team’s original stadium plan had the potential to be more successful and would have helped the club avoid the financial challenges they endured after his departure.
“The new 32,500-seater stadium was built near Freeman’s Wharf for around £37 million, whereas our plan on Bede Island South for a 40,000-seater stadium was quoted at £32 million. I was also disappointed to see that the deal agreed with Walkers Crisps for the naming rights of the stadium was considerably less than the one that I had negotiated” said Pierpoint.
In his book, he writes that these two decisions, alongside overspending and poor corporate governance at Board level, led to Leicester’s fall into administration in 2002.
Barrie Pierpoint’s book, ‘Minding My Own Football Business’ focuses on his time as CEO of Leicester City and features contributions from Emile Heskey, Steve Walsh and Gary Mills. It is available to purchase at https://www.morganlawrence.co.uk/product/minding-my-own-football-business/.