BOOK PAUL TODAY
I'm a stadia not stadiums man but if you feel strongly fine. There is so much that is wonderful about football that it is hard to know where to start. Great players, great clubs, great matches and great moments within them.
But throughout football history, perhaps now more than ever, great stadia are a fundamental part of the world's greatest game. How often is it the case that the first real tingle of excitement on match day is when we catch sight of a floodlight or an arc or a flat roof dominating a skyline?
Why is it that so many football fans set themselves the lifetime ambition of visiting every League ground? It is because the stadia in which our national sport is played really matters. Football fans care about them, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Paul Fletcher knows a thing or two about football, having played at the top level for many years, including for the club I have followed for almost half a century, Burnley.
He knows a thing or two about stadia as well and his book will be of genuine interest to anyone who cares about the development, building and operation of a successful new stadium.
Paul has been a hero of mine since scoring the greatest goal I ever saw, an incredible overhead strike against reigning champions Leeds United in 1974, when we battered Don Revie's mighty side 4-1 at Elland Road. A picture of the goal hangs on my office wall with a lovely inscription from Paul, who had read somewhere that I had described it as the goal of the century. 'To AC,' he wrote, 'A 100 watt bulb in a 60 watt world.' He's always been a charmer. And I have often reflected how well that applies to the man himself. He played the game to the full. He played his off field practical jokes to the full. And when he went into the stadium business, he did that to the full too.
I have followed his progress, from Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium to the Reebok at Bolton and the Ricoh Arena at Coventry, with a spell at the New Wembley Stadium as Commercial Director in between. He has certainly walked the talk. And now I am delighted he is back at Turf Moor, still my favourite stadium, as Burnley's Chief Executive.
It has been a remarkable period for the club, not least because we were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 2009. Part of his responsibilities will also oversee the development of a new stand to replace the Cricket Field Stand, which first opened in 1971, the year Paul joined the club. The recession put things on hold for a while but the new project will include a hotel, exhibition hall, banqueting facility, indoor rock concert venue and a wide range of community facilities. Burnley FC has always been a vital part of the community. This development will make it even more so and bring in essential revenue to the club and the town, which has had its share of economic and social problems.
In recent years I have got to know Paul and his wife Sian well. They are superb hosts and for someone who has been in football for so long, he remains incurably optimistic about life and the game. He has his own straightforward writing style, a wicked sense of humour and a real commitment to the role of sport in the community.
This book is not written by an academic but someone who has learned about modern stadia the hardest way of all - doing it. He has also come up with a whole new concept for stadia, StadiArena, which I believe will change stadia around the world.
I don't know Ken Sharp but Fletch says he knows his stuff, which is good enough for me.
Enjoy the read. I did.