Stadium for Cornwall: The new ground to transform sport in the county?

By James LawBBC Sport
Stadium for Cornwall
Truro chairman Peter Masters signed the document confirming they will join Cornish Pirates in the stadium

It is a rugby union heartland that has never been home to a Premiership club; a county of more than 500,000 people that has never had a professional football team.

Cornwall, best known for its golden beaches and family holidays, has probably never achieved its sporting potential - but could that soon change?

More than seven years after plans for a Stadium for Cornwall were tabled, the county's leading two teams have agreed to share a new home with the potential to bring both to a level not seen before in that part of the country.

While construction of the £10m ground will not start until the summer, for the first time there is confidence from Cornish Pirates and Truro City that this long-awaited project has come to fruition.

"Having this stadium actually takes away the issue of having the right criteria of a ground to obtain Premiership status," said Paul Durkin, chairman of Championship rugby union side Pirates.

Truro are in the sixth-tier of English football, two divisions from the English Football League, but their chairman Peter Masters also foresees a new dawn in the ground, which will initially hold 6,000, rising to 10,000.

"There's no real restriction on us now going forward, dare I say it, into league football," he added to BBC Radio Cornwall.

Pirates' Premiership promotion plan

Jack Nowell
England internationals Jack Nowell, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Phil Vickery started their careers in Cornwall

For Cornish Pirates, the stadium has been on the agenda for almost a decade, with their current Mennaye Field home not suitable for them to reach the top division.

"The whole future of the Pirates, as we planned it, was predicated on the stadium being built," Durkin said.

"There are a lot of things that will benefit Cornwall as a whole, and that's the point. It's not just a stadium for the Pirates or a stadium for Truro City, it's a stadium for Cornwall.

"We'll have very firm revenue streams which will help us develop with the view of getting to the Premiership in the couple of years after the stadium is opened."

On the playing side, coach Alan Paver has been with the club for almost 15 years and knows how significant this moment is.

"How many times have we been in a position where something possibly could happen and it didn't happen?" he said.

"If professional rugby in Cornwall is to strengthen and move forward; if the Pirates are to push on the venue, the training facility, the partnership needs to be there."

'The page has turned'

While Pirates average crowds of around 2,000, National League South side Truro City's gates are only a quarter of that figure - but they are still looking to break new ground.

Though they had once considered the idea of sharing a base with their rugby neighbours, their aim had been to build their own venue less than a mile away, but Truro chairman Masters now believes joining forces is the best bet.

"What has happened is we've turned two maybes into a certainty," he said.

"The page has turned now, it's another chapter, let's move forward and we now all sing from one hymn sheet."

Truro, a semi-professional side, are managed by former Plymouth defender Lee Hodges, who believes having a new ground will attract players that could propel the club to new heights.

"You see a lot of teams now when they get their new stadiums they seem to grow as a club and move forward, and hopefully once it's all built and ready that happens here."

Proposed Cornwall stadium
The Stadium for Cornwall will be built at Langarth Farm, just off the A390

Will it now definitely be built?

  • May 2010: Cornwall Council launch feasibility study into ground
  • May 2012: Councillors vote against public funding
  • January 2014: Developers say supermarket would fund stadium
  • April 2015: Truro City submit plans for rival ground
  • July 2015: PM David Cameron lends support as planning permission given
  • December 2016: Pirates director estimates work will start "in middle of 2017"
  • March 2017: Truro chairman told their ground is not viable
  • April 2017: Truro and Pirates set to share Stadium for Cornwall

Understandably, given the time it has taken to get this far, there will be sceptics who will not believe the stadium will happen until it is actually built.

Truro and Penwith College, also involved in the project, are providing a fifth of the £10m needed, with the rest also privately funded between the clubs and the retail development.

Masters told BBC Radio Cornwall: "I know if everybody does their bit, the finances are in place and it will be built - it'll no longer be a pipedream, it will be built.

His opposite number Durkin added: "At the moment we're pretty certain that we have that initial £10m to build phase one, and have a 6,000 stadium."

Interviews by Naomi Kennedy and Ross Ellis, BBC Radio Cornwall