New Den fails to get Millwall rocking

BY MARTIN FLANAGAN

Millwallfootball club has admitted that its move into a brand new stadium 19 months ago is still failing to generate the moneyspinning special events extravaganza it hoped for.

It has staged just one non-footballing event - a world heavyweight boxing title fight a year ago.

The club has also drilled a dry well in its plans to attract top rock stars to the New Den in south London. None of the glitter brigade have appeared.

"We are obviously disappointed," the chairman, Mr Reg Burr, said. "But it does seem the recession has been hitting everyone. Last year particularly was not a very good year. We did not hold any concerts by major rock groups. I think Wembley stadium held just one, and Milton Keynes two."

Mr Burr partly blamed an unsuccessful consultancy contract with Ogdens, the US stadium operator that was to help market Millwall's pristine 20,000-seat arena for profitable sideline activities. The agreement had not worked, he said, and was cancelled some months ago.

The chairman said, however, that the company, floated in 1989 at 20p a share against a price yesterday of 2.25p, still had faith in the concept of extended use of the stadium, a short distance from its former crumbling venue in Cold Blow Lane.

Marketing of the New Den was now being undertaken internally, he said, and there was more interest from promoters.

Mr Burr added: "We are much more optimistic. We would not have built the new stadium in the way we did if we did not believe we could stage events that would be very profitable. The Bent-Hide fight at least made the world aware we could put on such a major promotion."

Millwall hopes to stage at least two headline pop concerts at the ground this summer.

The opening of the New Den was attended by 11th-hour drama as just four months before the scheduled date the company launched a £3.2m cash call on shareholders to finish a stand..

Last November the group announced full-year losses of £119,000, a reduction from the figure of £1.13m losses in the previous 12 months. In January Millwall raised a further £408,000 through a placing of new shares with institutional investors.

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