'I'd come out of retirement just to play there'
May 23, 2012
Phil Vickery back in his British & Irish Lions days © Getty Images
Phil Vickery won virtually everything the game has to offer in the northern hemisphere and as a proud Cornishman he has spoken out in an exclusive column for ESPN about the need for the last week's decision to reject plans to build a stadium in the area to be overturned on June 20
I drove down to Cornwall last week and when you're passing Exeter on the M5 and see Sandy Park there, it's a real legacy. Regardless of the rugby in Cornwall, let's talk about what a stadium would bring to the area.
We're not just talking about where a rugby game can be played - we're looking at music festivals, we're looking at a stand-along business with conference centres - imagine what you can do with top quality facilities. We're not just talking about a slab of concrete stuck in the middle of a site - it could be a something which we can look at and be so proud of.
It could be something which people can use and we can promote the county and what it has to offer. I understand where the council are coming from to an extent, we're in the deepest recession since time began but at the same time me as a rugby fan; of all the places you'd want to go to watch rugby, Cornwall would be top of the list. You're not just going to drive down to the area and watch a game, you're going to stay a couple of days.
You're going to use local B&Bs, you're going to use local restaurants and hotels - you're going to make a long weekend of it. It's a wonderful opportunity for the county without even looking at the rugby.
If you have a stadium which is working as a business and - although it is difficult for me to talk about without looking at the figures - could potentially pay for itself and be a standalone business in its own right, then it could revolutionalise the sporting prowess in the area. We would have something to build from. For the Cornish Pirates, they could potentially be in a better position than teams in the Premiership, let alone the Championship, with a supporter base that would undoubtedly pack the place out.
Christ almighty, had I had a place on my doorstep which was hosting Premiership rugby, then I'd have been going down there all the time. It would be inspirational for what it could do for kids, families, and not just for Cornwall but also Devon. It gives them the opportunity to go and be involved in our fantastic sport. It is a perfect opportunity to make a real statement. It's a shame that they just can't come to some sort of agreement or settlement. I'm in business myself and it's a lot of money but as long as it's thought about then it could be a huge success.
It's a shame, as it makes me wonder … if we don't get on and do this now, then when will it be done? How long have we been talking about this stadium? Years. I just wish someone would stick their neck out and give some definitive direction.
Ultimately there's more 'fors' than 'againsts' when looking at the argument. It's not about blaming people but there has to be an element of urgency because people get fed up.
There has been talk of the Pirates perhaps looking elsewhere. Maybe Bristol or Plymouth? But that would be a travesty. It's just so disappointing. The Pirates have been banging on that door of the Premiership but they've been nomadic. Imagine if they had their own stadium with the huge infrastructures and the sense of belonging.
The opportunity to come into the Premiership with that stadium would just be amazing. Christ, I'd come out of retirement just to go down to play in that stadium. Could you imagine that atmosphere with the passion and the pride of the people there. It would be magical.
I've spoken about the stadium itself and the impact it could have on the Pirates but it would also have a huge bearing on the players themselves. There's a huge talent drain in the county with players such as Matt Hopper and Olly Barkley moving north, and rightly so, but if there's Premiership club there then we'd stand a chance of keeping maybe just 30% of talent which could be nurtured in a fantastic environment - alongside clubs like Redruth and Cambourne. It could be a great opportunity for the county to promote themselves.
I understand the reasoning behind the council voting against the stadium but it needs someone with a huge amount of courage to just push us on and get the stadium the area deserves.
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