Councillors to determine licence application by St Albans City FC

Pitchside bar

Pitchside bar - Credit: St Albans City Football Club

Bosses at St Albans City Football Club have pitched plans to open up their bar to the public. 

The football club is already allowed to operate a bar for club members and their guests at their Clarence Park grounds. 

But now they are seeking a premises licence that would allow them to sell alcohol to the public within the grounds, between the hours of 10am and 11pm, up to seven days a week. 

Almost 100 residents have asked for the plans to be kicked into touch – pointing to the potential for public nuisance, crime, disorder and harm to children. 

And at a meeting of St Albans district council’s licensing sub-committee on Friday, the football club and the residents put their case. 

Club chairman and co-owner Lawrence Levy said City was the only club it its league not to have an ‘appropriate' licence. 

And he said that the lack of a premises licence impacted on their ability to generate ‘much-needed’ income. 

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“We are therefore unable to generate the much-needed income from match day and, more importantly, non-match day events at the stadium. 

“But despite this St Albans City Football Club is undoubtedly the single most important community supporting club in the district and the numerous wide ranges of outcomes.” 

He pointed to the community activities such as matchday invitations to schools and youth groups, school holiday camps, Saturday schools and coaching for schools, as well as offering inclusive and disabled football in the community. 

He also pointed to the club’s involvement in ‘intervention’ projects for young people and ‘walking football’ for the over 50s, as well as online sessions for hundreds of children during ‘lockdown’. 

And he said the additional income generated as a result of a premises licence would help them to continue with the ‘good work’. 

He said: “Although this won’t make us fully financially sustainable – and John [McGowan] and I will still have to put our well-earned money into the club to deliver these projects – this added income that’s derived will be able to help us to continue the good work we are already doing – and have been doing since John and I took over in May 2011.” 

However, in objection to the application, chair of Clarence Park Residents’ Association Paul Brecknell said the application was ‘out of proportion’ for a sports club in a public park. 

And he suggested it would turn a members’ clubhouse into a pub, 365 days a year. 

Outlining the concerns, he told the councillors: “We wish to see all the sports clubs in the park thrive – but we oppose this application as it is to the detriment of other clubs, park users and residents.” 

And he later said: “Long sessions of pub use are bound to result in anti-social behaviour in surrounding streets and in the park, rowdiness and intimidating behaviour, urinating in the bushes, littering etc. 

“There’s also likely to be vandalism to the pitches and equipment at the expense of the other sports clubs, vandalism of a brand-new play park, more abuse and threats suffered by park rangers.” 

Mr Brecknell stressed the football club was located in a quiet non city centre neighbourhood. 

And he suggested that – should councillors agree to a premises licence – alcohol sales be limited to four hours a day and that events should be ancillary to football. 

Many of his concerns were echoed at the meeting by Neil James, who is also a member of the Clarence Park Residents’ Association. 

“Like many residents I support the football club being in Clarence Park,” he told the sub-committee. 

“It has been here a long time and it prides itself on being a community club. They are part of the fabric of the park.” 

But he later added: “The application suggests that the football club wants to operate at Clarence Park more like a pub than a football club. 

“If it succeeds, this application will subordinate the interests of local residents, other park users and park visitors to the interests of one party only, the football club.” 

Mr James also suggested that local residents should not have to put up with the noise and late-night behaviour that such a licence would ‘likely promote’. 

After hearing the submissions from all parties, the council’s licensing sub-committee – chaired by Cllr Richard Curthoys – adjourned to consider the application in private. The decision will be published within 10 days of the hearing.