SWINDON Town have made it clear that they have no interest in moving away from the County Ground as Swindon Town Supporters’ Trust explore the possibility of buying the stadium from Swindon Borough Council.
As reported by the Advertiser yesterday, the Trust, fronted by chairman Steve Mytton, were outlining their ownership plan for Town’s home ground at their annual meeting at the Goddard Arms last night.
A figure of £1.1million has been discussed with council representatives and an offer put in by the Trust last summer, with the view to a transaction being completed by the end of March 2018, one which the council say has not been accepted.
While Swindon Town were represented at several of the meetings to take place over the last two years, with club director Sangita Shah attending two such discussions, it is understood the club have no interest in supporting the Trust in their venture, but is not exploring the route of purchasing the ground itself.
One of the biggest risks posed to the Trust’s County Ground ambitions, should they proceed with their plans, would be the club moving away from the County Ground, leaving the stadium empty and a revenue shortfall.
With club owner Lee Power out of the country, no Town representative was available yesterday, but a statement in answer to some of the Adver questions put to them read: “The rolling lease is still in action but discussions are ongoing in regards to a long-term lease that both parties can agree on.
“The club are continuing each summer to address the dilapidation of the County Ground at our own cost.
“Finally, the club would like to stress that we are not exploring the possibility of moving away from the County Ground.”
The Trust’s County Ground purchase idea has also led to questions over whether the substantial pot of money left in the will of farmer Nigel Eady, thought to be in the region of £2 million and ring-fenced for a long-term scheme for the club’s benefit, could offer a solution to funding the project.
However, the Adver understands that unless Power - or whoever the owner of the club is at the time a deal is struck - is on board, the executors of Mr Eady’s will would be reluctant to get involved.
Despite the enthusiasm shown by the Trust and the overall support the news received yesterday, the County Ground purchase idea remains in its infancy, although the council is willing to explore the options over further discussions.
Coun Garry Perkins, Swindon Council’s Cabinet Member for the Economy, Regeneration and Skills, who has sat in on all of the meetings, said: “We spoke to the Trust some time ago about the future of the County Ground and an offer to buy the stadium was put forward last summer.
“This offer was not accepted but we are happy to continue talking to the Trust as we consider a number of options.”
The Trust’s ambitious plans have received the backing of Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson, who has also been kept informed on the recent activities behind the scenes.
“The Trust have some seriously impressive committee members and I think it is a very welcome move that they are proactively engaging with the council as this is an opportunity to secure the long-term future of the club asset, which, as we have seen with other football clubs, you can never take for granted,” he told the Adver.