With only weeks to go until the beginning of the season, it seems that negotiations between Basingstoke Town Community Football Club and Basingstoke Town FC Ltd are at an impasse on the best way to take football in the town forward into the 2019/2020 season.
The negotiations over the past few months have centred around the ongoing financial commitment to the Community Club from Basingstoke Town Ltd and current Chairman and owner of local Computer Company Centerprise International, Rafi Razzak. Razzak, who has been involved with football in the town for over 20 years as Chairman of Basingstoke Town Ltd has, within the last 2 years, purchased the land The Camrose football ground is situated on and released the covenant that promised football can be played there until 2053. This, together with BASRON LTD who own the Camrose site and Razzak is also a Director of, have recently put in planning permission for residential and commercial use of the land which has been challenged by Sport England. What this means is the Community Club, who were tasked with running the football club from this season, were left without a home to play football, having been evicted from the Camrose, their home for over 50 years, and left to play football at the Winklebury Football Complex, the home of the Hampshire FA. Although the complex is of an excellent standard, there are still some works that need to be done to fulfil Football Ground regulations as set by the Southern League. This is where the negotiations have been lengthy discussing the financial support that will be given to the Community Club, who have been left with no income streams coming into a crucial season. Basingstoke Town Community Football Club Chairman Terry Brown and fellow Director Kevin White have had meetings with Razzak, Basingstoke Town Chief Executive David Knight and also Malcolm McPhail, Director of BASRON LTD to discuss transitional finance and also what support will be given to help finance the extensive renovations needed on Winklebury. Terry Brown commented ‘the concern has always been how can we keep competitive football in this fantastic town, when effectively the Community Club is starting from scratch. The income that has previously been enjoyed by the football club, namely, the social club, the hand car wash, the betting shop and parking revenue have all been kept by Basingstoke Town Ltd meaning we are solely relying on fundraising and what little commercial revenue can be generated in such uncertain times.’ He continued ‘two years ago, BASRON Ltd gave us a figure of £250,000 which would be made available to the Community Club to help with Ground renovations, however, when quotes for the building work were obtained by Basron, the actual costs ran into two to three times that amount.’
More recently, Kevin White joined the board and was tasked with raising commercial income and also helping to take the club forward as part of the Community Club Board and he was surprised at how little support the Community Club were getting. ‘I, like many people in the town have been keeping up to date with the changing of the football club and assumed it was a changing of guard, not a complete start-up of a new football club. It wasn’t until I joined the Board and looked at the figures that I agreed with what the Board had already established, that the amount offered and the cost of the extensive works needed, did not match and that was just the tip of the iceberg.’ He continued ‘firstly, we are dealing with three different businesses the Football Club company, the development company (Basron) and the Community Club and I have not found one contract stating anything between any party. I was also surprised at the amount of £250,000, which doesn’t seem to have any bearing to the actual costs of renovation to the new ground. That, together with the fact that the payment of £250,000 is intrinsically linked to the successful completion of planning permission at The Camrose made me nervous at the fact that the very future of football in the town was trying to be controlled by Basron for their own benefit’.
David Knight, Basingstoke Town Chief Exec went on record at a well-attended fans forum that there was a letter that confirmed that there would be an initial payment of £100,000 out of the final pledged sum of £250,000, where we were led to believe this was irresponsive of any planning permission. However; subsequently we found out that their intention was to only pay money upfront once planning permission had been granted for the Camrose. This inevitably creates uncertainly and further delay in making ground improvements.
Currently, the Community Club are preparing to put in planning permission at the Winklebury Complex for the much-needed ground upgrades in the hope that the fundraising efforts of those volunteering for the club can continue and the money can be raised for down payments on the extensive works. Terry Brown concluded ‘due to the constant delays, we decided that we needed to take control of the planning application at Winklebury and work with the Architects and other parties ourselves which in itself is a big task. The efforts of everyone involved with the club have been immense and despite trying to resolve these issues with Basingstoke Town Ltd and Basron, we felt that we needed to tell the whole story. The support we have had from Hampshire FA and the local council has been fantastic and now we need to move forward and get into our new home as soon as possible, with or without help from Basingstoke Town Ltd or Basron.’