Saint Albans City may move from Clarence Park
PUBLISHED: 12:57 27 October 2012
THE owners of St Albans City Football Club have admitted to being in talks with developers about possible areas to relocate the team from their home ground Clarence Park, including on green or brownfield sites.
At a St Albans district council cabinet meeting last Thursday, October 18, Lawrence Levy and John McGowan gave a frank assessment of the club’s current financial situation and their vision for its future.
The men, who bought the Saints 18 months ago, admitted to spending £250,000 in the past year alone on staff and players’ wages, ground maintenance and officials.
They told councillors that that outlay was simply “unsustainable”.
The Saints, founded in 1908, first played at Clarence Park in the 1908/09 season.
Facilities date back to the early 1900s, with little improvement in the past 60 years because of trust covenants preventing expansion.
Mr Levy told cabinet that the club had had multiple owners over the past two decades and that, “every time someone runs out of money, the club goes down and the connection with the community and the youth goes with it.”
However the owners are keen to build a sustainable, modern and successful football club, provide a pathway for talented local footballers and boost job opportunities.
There is a lengthy list of outdated facilities at the park including no separate dressing rooms for female officials and problems with accessibility for disabled supporters and officials.
Mr Levy said while the club has ambitions to eventually play two leagues up, “we cannot play league football with the current ground because it does not meet the requirements of a football league club.”
He explained that non-league football was “not a money-spinner” and that revenue from gate takings was not enough to fulfil the club’s aspirations.
The Saints’ lease for Clarence Park ends in 2014.
Asked by Cllr Tony Swendell how much improvements would cost if the Saints remained at Clarence, Mr McGowan replied: “The cost we looked at to develop a small stadium for about 3,000 seats, playing fields and retail development is in the region of about £3 million.”
Mr Levy added that would be “cost-prohibitive” and even renting out facilities would not “pay for the interest for the build”.
He said: “Based on the figures we have calculated it doesn’t look like Clarence Park is a sustainable location for the football club.
“So there is really only one option, and that is looking at a site where you can build the necessary facilities.”
Cabinet chairman Cllr Julian Daly said: “I’m not supportive of the idea of encouraging the club to move out of the centre of St Albans onto a Green Belt site and facilitating it with the building of hundreds of houses.”
He suggested club officials had further discussions with councillors, who could look at bringing trust documents up to date.
After the meeting, the club owners said that between five and seven acres were needed for a full range of facilities, including training pitches.
They added: “We are talking to developers to see whether we can link into their schemes.”