Premier League Fulham are urged to scrap plans to build a pier on the Thames that would allow them to ferry fans to and from Craven Cottage amid fears it would cause major disruption to The Boat Race’s iconic route
- Fulham Football Club want to increase a stand’s capacity by offering ferries
- Local campaigners believe this will negatively impact on other river-users
- It will also disrupt The Boat Race route which goes right past Craven Cottage
Fulham Football Club have been urged to abandon plans to build a pier on the Thames that could cause major disruption to the route of the The Boat Race.
The Premier League’s club proposal to offer a boat service to its reconstructed Riverside Stand would hurt thousands of river-users from sailing clubs, youth clubs and schools, campaigners have said.
Ahead of Sunday’s historic Boat Race on a route that passes Fulham’s stadium Craven Cottage, the head of the sport’s ruling body said the club’s plan could inflict serious damage on the sport.
Mark Davies, chair of British Rowing, said the arrival of passenger ferries docking and turning at the ground would make it very difficult for anyone to row on the Thames.
‘That stretch of water will become pretty well unusable,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure people understand just how many people use that course, from all over the country. Ignore the Boat Race, for a moment. These are clubs from all over the country. All sorts of people, all sorts of ages, schools up to veterans. And they’re all using that as their main rowing course.
Sunday’s Boat Race takes the crews past Fulham Football Club’s Craven Cottage stadium
Fulham want to ferry fans across the River Thames to increase capacity, angering campaigners
‘Major events take place, but it’s also the major training venue. It’s [like] Wembley and St George’s Park.
‘Imagine if somebody said, “Let’s put an Underground station on the Nursery Ground at Lord’s, so that we can improve transport links for the sake of a commercial organisation.” There’s no chance that anybody would accept it.’
The Mail on Sunday understands that Fulham is pressing ahead with plans to introduce a passenger boat service to its £80m new stand, which will increase the stadium capacity from 25,700 to 29,600.
Designs for the new development, which is due to open this year, have shown it to include restaurants, a hotel, riverside market and meeting and events spaces.
One proposal included a pier and clipper ferry stop jutting out into the Thames, with the ferries due to use it potentially making it difficult for other river-users to continue with their activities.
A petition, entitled Stop The Pier, was launched last year try to stop the development of the boat service. As of Saturday, it had reached 17,184 signatures.
The 4.2-mile course of the Boat Race, featuring crews from Cambridge and Oxford, starts at Putney Bridge before running past Craven Cottage and finishing at Chiswick Bridge.
Putney MP Fleur Anderson said she was disappointed Fulham pressed ahead with new plans
The 2023 Boat Race crews pose for the announcement, with future plans possibly disrupted
Davies said the general public could easily under-estimate how crowded that section of river could get. This is partly because the Boat Race, which is broadcast live on the BBC TV, takes place at high tide when the river is at its widest. Fleur Anderson, the Labour MP of Putney, was disappointed to discover Fulham were seeking to press ahead with the plans. To proceed, it would require the approval from Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the Port of London Authority.
‘If the plans go ahead, they will mean very large ferries coming down a relatively safe piece of river, which is used by thousands of people, lots rowing clubs, school clubs and youth clubs,’ she said.
‘They all say it’s going to be too dangerous. They can all go out onto the water there. They can’t just move up or down the river. The river conditions don’t allow that.’
Fulham were approached for comment. When Anderson raised the issue in Parliament last April, the club said: ‘Fulham’s design would create substantial and obvious benefits to the local community. The club is encouraged by the results of an initial survey in the local area for a passenger pier service, which showed with over 80 per cent [of respondents] in favour. Fulham will continue to liaise with all relevant stakeholders as it moves forward.’
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