Board members of the Swindon Town Supporters Trust have announced they are still confident of having a stake in the future of the County Ground.
The Trust submitted their bid to Swindon Council to buy the County Ground months ago after years of research and consultation with the local authority. Today they are still standing by their plan – even though another bid is also being considered.
They have plans to upgrade the ground over time, undertake urgent repairs and plan for a sustainable economic future. Meetings with councillors were positive and the bid is likely to be discussed in detail over the coming months.
Recently Mr Lee Power, owner of Swindon Town Football Club, submitted his own bid, having previously announced he was not interested in owning the County Ground. He claims his bid is in the best interests of the club and he is now backed by Australian based company Axis.
Steve Mytton, chair of the Trust, said: “We remain owner neutral as we have always been throughout this process. We are proud of our own bid which is clear, transparent and viable.
“We are, however, willing to work in partnership with anyone who is also interested in owning the County Ground.
“Our plan is to secure the long term stability and sustainability of the club and the stadium – this is our priority.
“We must avoid a scenario like the one which has emerged just down the road at Oxford with the Kassam stadium.”
The owner of the Kassam Stadium in Oxford is in dispute with the local authority around the site and the council has made efforts to buy back the stadium which have, to date, been unsuccessful.
Councillors in Swindon will consider both bids over the coming months. The strength of the Trust’s bid is, according to board members, the legacy of the Trust which has existed for many years, is run by committed volunteers and has a democratic structure.
Rob Angus, vice chair of the trust board, said: “We have secured substantial financial backing for our bid and we have committed funding in place ready to go. We are fully committed to using any rental income to the benefit of the club. This could include stadium improvements including dilapidations.
“It’s clear some areas of the ground are not in great condition and we would also be willing to work with the club – or any other third party – on these matters.”
“Our legacy speaks for itself,” he said. “We are here for the long term, any stadium redevelopment will happen over years – and we will be here to see it through. It’s not all about one person. We are also established on a not-for-profit basis and any monies will be reinvested back into making the stadium and the club healthy.”
It was in August 2017, the Trust first submitted a proposal to Swindon Council which summarised a financial offer and underlined how a community bid would bring additional benefits to Swindon. The Trust also invested approximately £30,000 in professional fees to ensure due diligence was carried out on the proposed purchase.
The Council then undertook an up-to-date valuation which led to the Trust submitting a revised proposal increasing their financial offer. This is now being considered alongside the other bid by the club owner.
External director of the Trust James Phipps said: “As a Trust, we are a democratic, transparent community organisation publishing accounts each year, governed by the rules of Supporters Direct and also the FCA (the Financial Conduct Authority). We will always be accountable and we are all Swindon Town fans and want to secure the future of our stadium for the benefit of the community and football itself.”
The Trust has also taken the additional step of listing the County Ground as an Asset of Community Value. This means it cannot be sold or developed if a qualifying community group can make their own credible plan to sustain it as a community asset within a set period of time. The County Ground’s listing runs until January 2019.
The Trust will be holding its annual general meeting on March 21 when any update will be shared with fans.