SARACENS are set to launch an ambitious £10m plan to “transform” Barnet Copthall stadium and make it their home ground from next season.

The Premiership rugby club, currently based in Watford, announced their plans to move into the ground from next season at a press conference this morning at Hendon Golf Club.

Last month the Times Series revealed the club had been in talks with Barnet Council over a takeover of the stadium.

Chairman Nigel Wray, who grew up in the area and now lives in Mill Hill, said they planned to improve the existing stadium to a “state-of-the-art” facility and open it up for community use 350 days-a-year.

He said: “We can confirm Saracens has chosen a location which we want to make our permanent home.

“We will be entering into detailed discussions with the London Borough of Barnet about the possibility of modernising Barnet Copthall Stadium into a vibrant multi-purpose stadium.

“I was here in 1964 when Copthall was built, I was a small schoolboy and it was a state-of-the-art stadium. It was fantastic and that's really the idea, to put the wow back into it.”

The stadium is currently used by athletics club Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers and Mr Wray said he expected the improvements would transform it into the “best athletics venue in the country”.

Plans unveiled for the overhaul include retractable seating for rugby matches on the track, which would take the capacity to 10,000, with permanent seats for 3,000 spectators during athletics events.

Synthetic turf would also be laid in place of the current pitch which is prone to waterlogging.

Mr Wray added: “We have got to consult with everybody. I just hope the essential logic of it comes through.

“This is a stadium that exists and this for me seems a great way to create a real community resource, a Premiership rugby team representing the area.

“I'm a north Londoner, but I just want the club to have a home so it can go on and be one of the top teams in Europe.”

He denied Barnet Council had given the club any preferential treatment or indications planning a application would be approved, but was optimistic the team would be playing home matches there from next September.

The ruby club would also be limited to a maximum of 16 home fixtures there each year and Barnet Council would retain the running of the stadium.

Chief executive Edward Griffiths said they anticipated a planning application being submitted in the new year, but hoped things would progress quickly.

He also said the club would look to develop “satellite” car parks to add to the 700 on-site spaces on match day as part of a travel plan, which could raise money for local schools and clubs.

He added: “This will never become the sort of place where people can only come to watch rugby matches.”

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