Stevenage FC Chairman, Phil Wallace has today replied to last week’s Stevenage Borough Council press release about the proposed new North Stand for the football club.
"We have been telling the council for six years that the North end of the stadium we lease is not fit for purpose in the EFL. The 50+ year old facilities were second rate when built and are now truly awful.
"Wheelchair users are open to the elements, half the end has no cover and the toilets are a disgrace. It is totally beyond renovation or repair. How is that acceptable? The club has worked hard to secure £450,000 of grant funding from the Football Foundation and has said it will even take on debt to match that for a stadium that we don’t own.
"So the facts are that we have offered the Council a £900,000 contribution towards the £1.4 million replacement cost of their stand. Facilities have to be fit for purpose and the landlord should be part of the solution, but their statement reads as if we have been looking for a handout. In fact, what we want is for them to stand with the club and bring the town’s stadium - which they own - up to the standard expected in the EFL today.
"We have worked together with the Council to bring the other three sides of the ground up to a decent standard for future generations and we need to find a way to do the last section of the stadium together. Times are tough for all of us, but the stadium isn’t going to improve on its own.
"We have even offered to purchase the stadium and do the work ourselves, but we are told that is ‘not an option’.
"We had a 'crisis meeting’ with the top Council officials in July last year. It was a crisis meeting because we found out that the lease we have no longer allows any grant-aided developments to the stadium, under new Football Foundation rules.
"We stated at that meeting that we had already waited a year for them to respond to the Foundation requirements on the lease, so that we could access the grant.
"We also stated that they had not told us that under the terms which they had purchased the land, the club is prohibited from doing any commercial development on the site, including a new stand with income producing areas!
"So why didn’t they tell us this when we applied for planning consent – which the club paid the council £11,000 for – and why did they grant it?
"Not knowing this crucial piece of information we then spent over £50,000 on architects fees, only to then find when we went to tender that the Council’s conditions of purchase prevented the stand -as approved by them - from being built.
"It took them six months to respond to that meeting and to this day we don’t have any idea whether or not the lease can be renewed on conditions that allow the club to move forward.
"All this brings the very future of the club into doubt because unless we can find a solution that provides decent facilities for future generations, there is little point in being an EFL club.
"I can’t believe that the council don’t care about that, because the club is so important to the town and the community.
"We have requested an urgent meeting with the stakeholders at the Council to determine whether we can find a way forwards that works for both the Council and the club, or whether this is the end of the road.”