EFL Newcomers Harrogate Town May Have to Start Scouting for a New Site

23.08.2020: Harrogate Town's promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history was undoubtedly one of the stories of the summer. Their 3-1 victory over Notts County saw Simon Weaver's side cap off a superb twelve months, and they will finally get the opportunity to compete in the EFL next season.

With the 2020-21 campaign getting underway in mid-September, it is an exceptionally quick turnaround, and the staff are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the newcomers are fully prepared for maiden campaign in the fourth tier. With just over a month between their play-off success at Wembley and the opening game of the 2020-21 season, it also leaves little time to make the necessary improvements to their home ground, the CNG Stadium.
The EFL have strict rules on artificial pitches, and the club's 3G surface will need to be replaced over the coming weeks. The entire process will take around ten weeks to complete, and will cost the club an estimated £200,000. As a result, Town will be forced to play their first few "home" matches at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium, a venue which is located 46 miles south of Wetherby Road.

Harrogate aren't the only side who have been forced to play their matches in unfamiliar locations, with Coventry City achieving promotion from League One last season whilst competing at Birmingham's St Andrews. Atalanta are another high-profile example, with the Bergamo-based club unable to stage European football at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia. As a result, they were forced to travel to the San Siro, although it didn't appear to inconvenience La Dea, who made it through to the quarter-finals of the competition this year. Unfortunately, two late PSG goals ended their hopes of an unlikely success, and with the Ligue 1 outfit now second favorites in the Champions League odds, Gian Piero Gasperini's side can hold their heads up high. Although work on their stadium is fairly close to completion, the club certainly weren't negatively impacted by playing their home matches outside of Lombardy this year. 

Although many Town fans believe that this is a small price to pay for promotion to the Football League, there are bigger issues which may need resolving going forward. Although a new main stand has been constructed to increase the capacity to just over 5,000, further expansion may prove troublesome. Like many former non-league grounds, the stadium is penned in by residential homes, and if the club were to continue their upward momentum, development of this charismatic venue is unlikely to be signed off. The new 880-seat family stand is a great addition, however, many fans are worried about the lack of room to maneuver going forward. 
Even with the expansion, Harrogate's ground will be one of the smallest in the EFL, and supporters are concerned that the stadium's scalability does not match the club's on-field ambitions. With very little space available close to the center, an out-of-town location appears to be the most likely solution, although speculation about a move to Pannal or the Great Yorkshire Showground have also been mooted.

Although the club have only just achieved promotion to League Two, Weaver and his side have got far greater plans, and if Harrogate Town are going to become EFL regulars over the next decade, they must start planning for their future. The prospect of relocation to a brand new purpose-built stadium now appears to be an ever-increasing possibility.


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