Last week QPR responded to newspaper speculation that the club would be turning its attentions away from a planned new stadium and wider complex at Old Oak. Instead it confirmed it was looking at “…a potential partnership with an athletics club such as Thames Valley Harriers to create a new community stadium” at the Linford Christie Stadium adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs.
When this news broke, the response across social media felt quite muted. It was almost like a collective shrugging of shoulders. The war of words with Car Giant, the slow progress to date and the sheer ambition of the plans I think contributed to fans not being entirely surprised.
So is Old Oak dead in the water? Well maybe not, after all the club has acquired land in Old Oak and is developing property interests there. One interesting clue though came in the press release from the club which quoted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan as describing the wider regeneration plans as ‘a mess’. Are the Malaysian consortium really going to push ahead with this project if the situation is confused politically, logistically and legally?
And what of the Linford Christie Stadium (or ‘Lunchbox Road’ as one podcaster wryly put it)? It seems to raise more questions than it answers. Reports mentioned that a running track would not be inside but rather adjacent to the stadium, averting issues West Ham are having at the London Stadium in Stratford. But Twitter posters observed that access to the Scrubs and Du Cane Road is pretty poor – a key consideration.
More fundamentally it emerged on social media that Wormwood Scrubs is protected by an 1879 Act of Parliament for use by the public and the military. Of course, laws can be rewritten and repealed. But one thing is clear – there won’t be a frictionless move from Loftus Road to that area just to the north anytime in the short term.
For me, the news of last week felt more about the club gracefully withdrawing from Old Oak as a proposition. By telling the world and the fan base about a search for alternatives, it was a quiet admission of moving on. Personally I am glad because, as much as we need a new stadium, I always felt the Old Oak plans were too grandiose… proposing in effect a New Town when all we need is a modern stadium to play football in.