Football: Charlton consider home at the Dome

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The Independent Online
CHARLTON ATHLETIC are investigating the possibility of building a new 45,000 all-seater stadium at the nearby Millennium Dome site in Greenwich.

The south London club, who are lying 16th in the Premiership, have made The Valley into a 20,000-capacity venue since returning to the ground in 1992 and have plans for further expansion. But their managing director, Peter Varney, says the club is in the early stages of looking into an opportunity to build a brand new stadium and corporate facilities from 2001.

"English Partnership, who are acting for the Millennium Experience company, have asked people who may be interested to register their interest and once you've done that there are various stages to go through," Varney said. "We've discussed the matter internally and we consider that because of the size of the site and the amount of possible grants that may be available and the sheer volume of income that could be generated by a site that size, it's incumbent on us to at least investigate what the various possibilities are.

"There's no secretive behind-the-scenes deals being done, all that's happened is there is a possibility to declare an interest and to see what the financial effects of any move might be. I think that's what any sound business would do when a site of this size become available only half a mile from where the ground is currently located.

"Hopefully we'll stay in the Premiership this year, as happened with clubs like Derby and Leicester, and we'll be in a position to expand even more.

"We're ambitious, we'd like to see Charlton become one of the top teams in the country and there is the possibility that after the planning application for the north stand, capacity could be restricted to something like 26,000.

"We have a responsibility to look at all the options available. If it's possible to build a 45,000 all-seater stadium only half a mile down the road with all sorts of associated commercial and retail revenues available to the club, then that's something we must look at."

Charlton followers have a particular attachment to The Valley, forming a political party to fight local elections during the seven-year absence from the ground when the club shared with West Ham and Crystal Palace. Fans also helped raise the pounds 4.6m development costs.

Varney stressed: "There's no imminent move to relocate the club, we're doing what I think is pragmatic, and if and when we wanted to take matters further everyone involved in Charlton, and most importantly the supporters, would be fully involved in any discussions we have."

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