Last prayers for St Albans Saints
PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:14 19 February 2015
The bosses of cash-strapped St Albans City Football Club are today launching a campaign to save the Saints.
And one of the co-owners is threatening to walk away from the cash-strapped club if a push to build a new stadium away from Clarence Park fails.
Club owners Lawrence Levy and John McGowan admit there seems to be “no light at the end of the tunnel” after ploughing £450,000 into the Saints since taking control four years ago.
The duo told the Herts Advertiser that after haemorrhaging money for so long, a major financial injection was urgently needed to help support the ailing club.
When Lawrence and John took over the club in 2011, its finances were in dire straits.
The two local businessmen bought it for an undisclosed sum and said they wanted to draw a line under the history of the club and take it forward.
But four years on, Lawrence and John admit that the Saints continue to be hamstrung by dilapidated, historic facilities despite their efforts, and financial support from loyal sponsors.
They are also struggling with the inability to boost the club’s income by, for example, hiring out rooms for functions because of restrictive conditions on a covenant on the Clarence Park ground they lease from the district council.
Lawrence explained: “We are one of the only clubs in non-league that has no facilities to bring in extra income, such as Hemel Hempstead.”
One way forward, establishing a new stadium elsewhere in the district, has not yet come to fruition.
This newspaper, which supports the club’s bid for survival, carried an article three years ago calling upon the council to help with the refurbishment of facilities at the Clarence Park premises, some of which date back almost 90 years.
When no such action was forthcoming, the men initiated talks with developers about building on a brownfield site within the Green Belt, on a former landfill site in Colney Heath.
But those hopes fell through. Then John and Lawrence suggested a joint housing and football stadium scheme at the proposed rail freight site in Park Street, but that also stalled because Helioslough’s bid continues to be embroiled in legal action.
Now, the men are in talks with a third potential developer about a piece of land on St Albans’ fringes.
While they are unwilling to reveal its exact location as yet, they are still pinning their hopes on building a new stadium with facilities to help it become financially stable and, more importantly, sustainable in the long term.
John said the only other option was to take in more money at the gates, through boosting attendance at the Saints’ matches.
But even then it is a long shot as they would need to bring in over 1,000 fans a week - on average just 500-600 attend.
John explained: “We need over 1,000 attending a week to keep it sustainable and break even.
“The stadium is falling apart and there is nothing extra the club can offer to get more money in.”
He added: “We can’t stay at Clarence Park. And if there is no opportunity to move, I will be leaving the club because I’m not going to throw more money into it. I would cut my losses and move off.
“But if there is an opportunity, I’m there for the club all the way.”