FRESH doubt has been cast over the future of Redditch United after a rent row with Redditch Borough Council halted the club’s latest plans to revamp its ground.
The club put forward proposals in November for a £750,000 scheme to tear up its Valley Stadium pitch and replace it with a state-of-the-art 3G artificial playing surface, as well as additional changing rooms. The move would allow the club’s junior teams to be increased from 30 to 50 and the disabled side to return to play in Redditch rather than in Birmingham. It will also allow the club to rent the pitch out to the community which will put it on a sustainable financial footing.
Currently chairman Chris Swan is using £1,500 of his own money every week to keep the club afloat having paid off £120,000 of debts when he and wife Sallie took control four years ago.
But the bid has stalled over the length of the lease of the ground from the council, as the district valuer is insisting Redditch United pays five times its current rent, something Mr Swan has refused to do as it would also increase the club’s corporate rates bill.
As a result Mr Swan has now told fans he is working on other options but exactly what they are is unknown. An attempt to relocate the club to Hereford United’s ground was blocked by the FA and Mr Swan says he has no plans to revisit a previous proposal to move the club to Washford and sell the existing stadium off Bromsgrove Road for housing, after Redditch Borough Council refused to sanction the deal saying it would carry too much financial risk.
Writing in his programme notes ahead of United’s game with Slough last Saturday, he said his aim was to ensure Redditch reached a Conference level standard of football, have the facilities to support 72, girls, boys and disabled teams and to continue to embrace the community the club served.
“I make no comment on the latest knock backs and understand the pressures on the public purse, but I have to do something. I am determined to try to protect youth football in Redditch and I would dearly love to achieve all of the objectives with Redditch United, but at the moment I have to conclude there is not the local support from community stakeholders to achieve these objectives,” he said.
A council spokeswoman said the club currently paid a reduced rent of £2,000 a year and discussions were ongoing regarding the renegotiation of the lease.
“The council are in regular contact with the club and are presently awaiting additional detail from RUFC. Any concession would need to be formally considered by members.”