Oxford United: Why the club are fighting on two fronts in 2023-24

Oxford United's new stadium bid continues to stay alive.

Twenty months after their hopes of a move to an area south of Kidlington were first made public they have not heard a flat "no". They have not heard a definitive "yes" either.

They have shifted their preferred site from one side of a duel carriageway to another, tweaked their plans and compromised on associated developments. The County Council decision this week to sell them the land known as The Triangle, like a video game for planning nerds, takes them to the next level where further challenges will come their way.

Remember, United want a 16,000 capacity stadium and the chat I have heard in Kidlington - and I am speaking generally - is that it is also not a "no from people in the village, but it could only be a yes if concerns about traffic and parking, in particular, are met.

Those are issues for Planning - and that is where this is now headed - to Cherwell District councillors. They may get their hands on all the detailed plans in weeks and could be asked to make their judgment in the first half of 2024. The nod from them and still United may not be calling in the removal firms.

Judicial reviews are not uncommon in cases like this and legal action is on the minds of environmental campaigners.

United say they face being homeless in the summer of 2026. There isn't much wriggle room.

Amid all these debates and decisions, which have such a bearing on United's future - even the club's very existence - the team have their own challenges on the field to contend with.

'Struggle for sustainability'

Liam Manning's side proved it was talented in an August that earned him the Manager of the Month prize.

No team in the EFL with more than a couple of years in the competition, had waited longer for such recognition. Who would have predicted in 2005 when Ramon Diaz was the last Oxford United manager of the month it would be more than 18 years - a period that included a promotion and play-offs - for the next one?

Mind you, people back then were still a bit stunned that Diaz was the Oxford boss at all, so they might have believed anything!

Meanwhile, back in 2023, United have to fight on two fronts. There are salutary tales of teams crippled as club directors fund new stands or stadiums and neglect the playing side. But when owners are wealthy and committed to the long-term, new stadia can be the key to unlocking the potential of the playing side.

At a meeting in Houses of Parliament last week, Oxford United CEO Tim Williams, speaking about the Fan Led Review of Football Governance, said Oxford United's decades of struggle for sustainability, in a stadium it doesn't own, makes it the poster child for football regulation. No good club or good owner has any reason to fear it.

There is a lot of investment going into the U's from the ownership group it has now - into the stadium project and into the team.

One day, they may see return on that investment financially, but they know that is many years away. The team giving some payback in pride, rather than pounds could come sooner.

You can hear every Oxford United match live on BBC Radio Oxford with Jerome Sale.

Around the BBC - Sounds
Around the BBC - Sounds
  • Listen BBC Radio Oxford's 'The Dub: An Oxford United podcast' here

  • Read: Oxford have 'togetherness' - Manning, here

  • Listen: The real Rocky who floorer Ali, here

Around the BBC footer - Sounds
Around the BBC footer - Sounds