Dafuge & Data: No Place Like Home

What is this? A season review? A summary of stats? A bit of data? No, not really. Just a short blog about the importance of having a home for your team. The importance of having a soul. Getting all sentimental about it if fans are the lifeblood of a team then the stadium is the heartbeat.

And at the Flamingo Land Stadium, we’ve just undergone some dicey open-heart surgery. Conducted by a Seagull if we really wanted to push the metaphor.

Flamingo Land Stadium

Look at it. Beautiful.

Just like most stadiums, ours has been overcome by a commercial sponsor. But in fairness at Scarborough, even the old Stadium (the McCain) had been an early victim. When we started the game we had a capacity of 2833, with about 586 actual seats. FM21 obviously graphically represented this as full normal stands rather than something a little more fitting.

Stadium FM21 facilities

It’s always been a bit of a peeve in Football Manager that the stadiums (such as they are) in the lower leagues or smaller nations aren’t represented in a particularly appropriate or varied way. Rather than the bus shelter stand on the side of the pitch we get treated to fairly unrealistic and grand designs. This was even true when I played in Tahiti in our 500 capacity stadia.

Stadium Rules

I am digressing though. This isn’t meant to be a stadium rant. I’m just wanting to talk about my stadium and what is happening. And I guess what it means to me. You see they may be pixels but they are pixels I’m getting attached to for a variety of reasons.

When we got promoted from the Vanarama North we ended up having to add some capacity bringing us up to 4083. And then, when we got promoted again to League 2 we again had to expand to meet the new league rules. Little old Scarborough suddenly had to add almost 1500 seats, and almost 1000 in capacity overall.

As you can see by the league rules there was a bit of distance between our original set up and what was needed so the board took the plunge and decided to make the additions I mentioned above for a cost of £1.9m, with £850k offset. So a cost of just over £1m to the club.

Stadium FM21 expansion seats

In the meantime, we would start our League 2 campaign in a nearby stadium. In this case, it was the recently vacated (and to be honest I think partially bulldozed in real life) Bootham Crescent. Rivals York had moved out of their ancestral home and moved into a soulless community stadium (like the scum they are). Leaving us with the chance to squat in their old stomping grounds.

Squatters Rights At York

Wimbledon’s (Poor) Example

Whilst I was looking forward to a nice lick of paint on the stadium, and some new seats (probably installed using cheap fan labour a la Sunderland till I die) I couldn’t help but be a bit worried. The whole point of the Dafuge save is to climb the leagues, and each rung on the ladder poses a problem because of our stadium.

Whilst we stay small yet true to the soul of the club, we will struggle to compete financially. If we expand and build something new then we saddle ourselves with debt for something potentially lacking the connection we had.

Yes, that is a (lovely) horse

Most of this existential stadium angst was brought on by a documentary about Wimbledon’s Plough Lane. I saw a lot of parallels between the meteoric rise of Wimbledon, and the sheer violence on display, and our very own Seadogs. They too had what was essentially a run down non-league stadium and facilities. A stadium that had fans almost spilling out onto the pitch but lacked real room for growth and the chance to make the same money as their eventual competitors.

Plough Lane

The documentary tells it much better than me but Wimbledon, with all their troubles, moved away from Plough Lane to Selhurst Park. Partly enforced by the Taylor report, but also in part by the need for bigger gates to compete. The original site was eventually gutted and their home wiped out. It took years for the newly formed AFC Wimbledon (suck it MK Dons) to find their way back and rebuild. Years in the wilderness.

I was pretty eager to avoid that. I don’t think FM21 allows for a soulless franchising and permanent relocation (seriously, suck it MK Dons). But I was worried that we might spend years adding to the stadium, eventually building a new site far removed from our background. With mounting costs and plenty of time squatting in the former lair of our useless rivals.

Financial Impact

Let’s stop navel-gazing for a second and focus on the immediate future. We spent £1.05m on a capacity increase of 1500. The average ticket prices per game are £19. This means we need to fill 55.23k seats, or those new seats 37 times over to recoup the money spent. That’s the equivalent of almost an extra 11 stadium sell-outs on top of normal gates. It could be much worse I guess but it’s hardly an increase that’s going to bring a huge amount in immediately.

The bigger capacity of Bootham Crescent whilst the build was going on looked like it could have some money-spinning potential. After all, imagine the cash for a good cup tie in the 9k capacity ground. But in reality, the few games we did play in the stadium didn’t fill many seats, we didn’t even reach our 5k capacity if we had been at home. We definitely didn’t have a Field of Dreams scenario here.

And importantly we only ended up playing 4 games there. I hadn’t noticed but our modest stadium expansion was on time and had a short time frame.

The not-so-new but definitely improved Flamingo Land Stadium

Now this…this I think looks pretty good. I actually feel a little at home here.

It was a massive pain actually getting the screenshots. If anyone knows a good way to do it please let me know so I can take better ones to print out and put in my wallet to show strangers. It actually looks a bit like a close to the pitch, spit and sawdust, lower league stadium. It looks dated despite parts of it being new. Look at all the roosting space on the top for seagulls. Fantastic.

Our opening game was against Swindon. And to christen the not-so-new stadium we scored some goals. Not just any goals either. The very first goal scored at the revived Flamingo Land was scored by hero Ethon Varian. Poetic. He then made sure it was a memorable occasion for all 3.65k fans by scoring a hat trick.

Stadium FM21 debut game

I’ve since played almost two full seasons in this stadium. I’m a bit ahead of my writing because work has been a proper ‘MK Don’ if you know what I mean. Varian has scored more goals, and we have made some money. We’ve had a few good cup games and I think our record gate stands at £100k from a cup sell out.

We’re not going to be dripping in cash, but we might break even on this one until we finally get forced into another expansion or move. Here’s to a few more rollercoaster seasons in Flamingo Land.