St Johnstone: Tommy Wright worried by threat to training ground

By Jim SpenceBBC Sport
St Johnstone's McDiarmid Park
St Johnstone play at McDiarmid Park in Perth

Manager Tommy Wright fears for the future of player development at St Johnstone, with the club's newly built grass training facility under threat.

And, chairman Steve Brown has warned it could put "a big question mark on the viability of the club."

Perth and Kinross council has voted eight to five in favour of a compulsory purchase order on the land next to McDiarmid Park for a new link road.

"It would be a huge blow to the club to lose them," said Wright.

Saints invested in a synthetic surface and a new grass training pitch at McDiarmid Park, which was only completed last year, and which they require to meet Scottish Football Association academy criteria.

"We have got the first-team back training in the city and I believe that's important for the club's identity," added Wright.

"The council saw last year when we won the Scottish Cup how much St Johnstone means to the people of Perth. That day proved the club is one of the main institutions in the city.

"So it's incredible to think they could go through with this when they have other options available to them.

"As a club, St Johnstone has tried to foster a good relationship with he local council.

"Every other club I have been at, the councils have bent over backwards to support their local football club because they recognise they are the bedrock of the community."

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright
St Johnstone used to train at Stirling University, nearly 30 miles away from McDiarmid Park

If the club are forced to relocate their training base, Wright is worried about the impact on planning.

"Losing our training pitch will harm the club and the players in the short-term because we'd have to find other training facilities," he continued.

"And in the long-term it will affect the club's youth set-up.

"We have to play these games side-by-side, but that wouldn't be possible any longer.

"When one of our under-age teams is on the Astroturf, another one will be playing on the grass pitch.

"If we lose that facility then it will certainly harm those under-age teams."

Chairman Brown revealed a large percentage of the club's income is made commercially through the facility, and any loss could have dire consequences for St Johnstone.

"We spent a substantial amount of money, well into six figures, upgrading the training within the area to make sure the players could train there on a regular basis," said Brown.

"That's now in jeopardy which for us is not just a financial thing it's now going to affect community engagement which is extremely disappointing.

"Our income from commercial activities is the highest percentage of income we have in the club. It's in excess of 30%. Any knockdown in that puts a big question mark on the viability of the club.

"Unfortunately we don't have the crowds we'd like to get, there's a limit of the amount of money in Scottish football anyway, and if you do take into account the lack of gate receipts and season tickets income, the only thing that keeps us on the straight and narrow if you like and a level footing financially is the commercial income of the club, it's absolutely essential.

"So any impact that has on a negative way can only be - I wouldn't say a fatal blow, but certainly very unhelpful to the financial wellbeing of the club."