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Football club put up for sale amid row with borough

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The owners of Northampton Town Football Club, which is at the centre of a long-running police probe in relation to a £10.25m loan made to it by Northampton BC, have put the club up for sale due to a row with its local district.

The football club’s board of directors said they had “grown totally frustrated with the complete lack of action, cooperation or communication” from the council in relation to the lease of the partially built East Stand and adjacent land at Sixfields Stadium.

The club’s chairman Kelvin Thomas and director David Bower claim the council is unnecessarily holding up the process relating to resolving the lease issue. The council claims the lease issue is not holding up any potential development from taking place and that club’s plans include land that was not part of what had previously been proposed.

Mr Bower said: “Notwithstanding the essential simplicity of what has been proposed, the council continues to prevaricate and Kelvin and I can only conclude that certain officers and members have a personal issue with us. We both agree we can’t allow this negative situation to continue and the club and its supporters deserve better, therefore we have had to make the decision we have.

“Kelvin and I have tried on behalf of the club to engage in a constructive fashion with officers of the council, including the leader, in regard to the real opportunities that exist on the Sixfields site, but no action is ever taken and this lack of action on the lease position is the final straw for us. If we felt confident that we could have a reasonable dialogue with the council on matters then our view may have been different, but we have to draw a line in the sand at some point.”

Mr Thomas said: “It seems there is now some sort of agenda in the background against David and myself and regrettably we think the only course of action available is to allow others to take matters forward…

“What is most frustrating, considering what happened prior to our ownership, is that we have not asked the council for anything other than to work together to regularise this incorrect lease position to protect the club. This process is not contingent on any other matter, tied to any additional land or requires any council funding.”

LGC has previously reported on a controversy over a £10.25m loan the council made to Northampton Town FC, which has been criticised by auditors and is subject to a police probe. David Mackintosh, who was Northampton BC’s leader at the time the loan was issued, did not seek re-election as an MP last year, reportedly due to strong opposition over the loan dispute although there has been no suggestion that Mr Mackintosh acted improperly.

A spokesman for Northampton BC said: “When Mr Thomas initially discussed his intention to take over the club, the borough council allowed this to happen free of loan liability and therefore took on responsibility for the recovery of the outstanding monies, safeguarding league football in Northampton.”

The spokesman said that progress on developing the East Stand “has been very much within the gift of the football club” and added: “The council’s position is that no lease issues have held up this process. The owners had given the council assurances when taking on the club that they had ample funds immediately available for this work.

“The council has consistently shown a willingness to facilitate this development and as recently as November 2017 provided draft documentation for the club to consider.

“The chairman subsequently proposed inclusion of further land, which was not part of the original draft documentation. However, the council has an obligation to ensure that any wider use of publicly owned land surrounding the stadium must be in the best interests of the taxpayers of Northampton, particularly proposed retail development outside of the town centre, and must go through proper due diligence to ensure the best value is obtained for the public purse.”

The matter is due to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on 13 June.

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