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Hands Off Bootham Crescent

Greenway condemns Craig's actions

The President of York City Football Club has backed calls for footballs governing bodies to act to protect York City and other clubs from losing their home ground.

In a letter to the Independent Football Commission (the independent watchdog established in 2002 with the support of the Government and the football bodies), John Greenway MP echoes the feelings of City fans by referring to:

The fact that York City Football Clubs previous owners were able to circumvent the FAs rules has caused widespread resentment amongst supporters.

Greenway goes on to express concerns shared by other City fans that if the Club is kicked out of Bootham Crescent, the future of professional football in the region would be at severe risk:

Even now the asset of the ground is owned separately to the football club and we have until the end of the season to identify a new site in order for the Club to have a future.

In part, Greenways letter arose from the ongoing work of Citys Supporters Trust, which is attempting to get The Football Association to act to protect the future of York City and other clubs from the actions of certain individuals.

As part of the FAs governance role, it outlines principles about the important role of football clubs within their communities and, through its rules, protecting the future of these clubs. The FA does have some rules relating to the ownership of club grounds. However, it is apparent that in some respects these rules are weak and, in addition, the FA appears to lack the commitment to enforce the principle of protecting clubs for their communities.

In 1999 the ownership of Bootham Crescent was transferred from York City Football Club to a new holding company (i.e. Bootham Crescent Holdings). The transfer of ownership from the Club to the holding company had been at a value far less than the market value now being suggested for the freehold. The restructuring circumvented certain FA rules that are supposed to protect football grounds as community assets. This restructuring provided the basis for the directors of BCH to carry out their plans to profit from the sale of Bootham Crescent at the expense of the Club, its supporters and the community. The actions of the directors have been widely condemned.

Whilst the Supporters Trust will continue to lobby the football bodies to take action, the main focus of attention should now be the arrangements between Bootham Crescent Holdings and Persimmon, who are proposing to oust the Club from its home at some point in the future.

Trust representative Richard Willis emphasised the importance of the issue:

York City must continue to have a decent home in the city that will enable it to survive and prosper in the future for the benefit of the whole community. The Supporters Trust will continue to work positively with all parties to ensure this is delivered.

York Citys home ground is now owned by Bootham Crescent Holdings. BCH is largely owned by Douglas Craig, John Quickfall, Barry Swallow, Colin Webb and Persimmon who between them own approximately 93% of the company.

Since April 2002, York City Football Club has been owned by John Batchelor. The Club has some form of agreement (a landlord-tenant type arrangement) with BCH to play its home games at Bootham Crescent. The terms of the agreement between the Club and BCH are not known. If BCH was to request the Club to vacate Bootham Crescent, it is not known what length of notice period would be given to the Club to try and find a new ground. John Batchelor has made assurances that the Club will not have to vacate Bootham Crescent at the end of the current season, but, as yet, no such assurance have been forthcoming from Douglas Craig or Persimmon.

It has been reported that Persimmon have a conditional contract with BCH to buy Bootham Crescent subject to planning permission and vacant possession. Within the last couple of months, Persimmon has made a planning application that could lead to the ousting of the Club from its historic home.

If the Club was to be ousted from Bootham Crescent before an alternative superior stadium in terms of capacity, facilities and location - is in place, this would be detrimental to the sustainability of the Club and would increase the risk of the Clubs demise.

Commenting on the current situation, Greenway added:
"We all need to work together in a partnership to ensure a new home is found for York City. Planning issues take time to resolve, but I remain convinced that with goodwill on all sides it should be possible to identify a site for a new superior stadium acceptable to the Club, the City Council, the local community and the Government Regional Office, who in effect have the final say. This is now our priority."

In January 2002, the directors of BCH originally demanded 4.5 million for parties looking to acquire BCH. In April 2002, John Batchelor did not buy BCH or the ownership of Bootham Crescent. He only acquired York City Football Club. The proceeds from the value of Bootham Crescent that go into the pockets of a few individuals is at the expense of the Club, its supporters and the community. If York City Football Club is to have a new superior stadium, those proceeds would go a long way towards enabling the development to be funded.

The Supporters Trust will continue to try and provide information to supporters and the community on this very important issue and encourage as many people as possible to take an active interest. More to follow during the next week.

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