Northampton Town Chairman Kelvin Thomas has sent the below open letter to Andy Roberts, Chairman of the Trust, in the interests of moving matters forward.
Open Letter and also delivered via email
August 3rd, 2020
Hope this letter finds you well and it is at least nice to be writing on these matters as a League One club. We are publishing this as an open letter in the interests of openness, understanding and more importantly moving forward.
A lot has been said and written about the Trust agenda and negative narrative, but we feel this matter is now secondary to the fundamental issue of the potential deal that has been presented to the Council and the obvious benefits to the Football Club. Of course, it would be helpful for the Club to get a more supportive approach from the Trust, and if this was to happen, I’m sure it would change any fan or club view about an agenda or negative narrative anyway.
We feel we have always dealt with matters professionally and will continue to do that. We have not and will not be responding to the numerous comments on various forums and social media from Trust Board Members and associated containing information that is shall we say at best interpretive rather than factual. However, we feel it is now in the best interests of the Club for us all to firmly focus on the matters at hand rather than any potential division in the background.
We understand that this matter is already being debated extensively by the fanbase, and it is of course pleasing to see the overwhelming support the Club has received which we are very thankful for, but we do believe now is the time to pause that debate and hope that all can agree.
With that being said in order to move matters forward, we have taken the time to address the main points within your recent statement where you have indicated how you could support a deal, which in fairness you will see that we are actually more aligned than we all may think.
For clarity we have written this letter on the understanding, as you have clearly stated, that you have now seen the proposed MOU, so you are fully aware of what has been suggested. Hopefully with that knowledge and this letter we can begin to move to a place where we can have a supportive approach from the Trust.
You indicated five requirements (which are in bold and copied directly from your statement) that will enable you to support a proposal and as you will see below the good news is we can agree on the majority of them.
To be constructive, the Supporters Trust would broadly support a deal in which: -
1. The East Stand is completed from the funds of the club’s owners, as they clearly committed to when they were allowed by NBC to buy the club for £1 in 2015
This is not factually correct, as firstly the current owners never purchased the club from NBC, and it was confirmed by Cllr Hadland at the last public Council meeting that this ‘alleged’ commitment never formed part of the agreed NBC/NTFC MOU in 2015.
However, the proposed MOU, which you have seen, clearly shows the club will be responsible for the completion of the East Stand prior to any land development. As the club technically will not have said funds to do this, then obviously the current owners will provide those funds. This therefore should satisfy your concern and we are agreed on this matter. POINT AGREED
2. The East Stand is completed without further delay and to a standard enabling the future progression of the football club
This is an agreed point and an extract from the current proposed MOU that you have seen indeed states “NBC and NTFC acknowledge that it is in their joint interests to agree and execute the option deed as soon as possible”. Therefore, we are agreed that everything is completed with urgency and of course it is an agreed point that the Club want to complete the stand as soon as possible and to an acceptable standard. POINT AGREED
3. Community land from the East Stand to the far side of the old athletics track land, previously leased to the club before 2014, is returned to the club and not used for industrial development – the stadium, West Stand car park and the land extending to the far side of the old athletics track land has been classified as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) and for which the Trust is the registered holder. We are not opposed to development on NTFC leasehold site covered by the ACV, as long as any proposal is aligned to the original intent of a community stadium.
The current legal position is that the Football Club controls all the leases on all the relevant parcels of land either through NTFC or through its ownership of CDNL. Please bear in mind that technically NTFC has never owned CDNL prior to our ownership, so this has already become an asset for the Club, that the current owners have given to the Club and therefore a benefit for NTFC.
It is the opinion of the Football Club that the easiest, most beneficial and more importantly deliverable solution for NTFC is that NTFC retain the current land leased to it and that the CDNL land is used to develop for the benefit of the Football Club, in partnership with NBC.
Whilst you may disagree with this view, we wouldn’t fully understand the reasoning for this disagreement. As you have stated previously, the ACV protects the Football Club site anyway and we are fully conscious of the legal responsibility that NBC have in regard to the ACV and agree with that principal. In our opinion the MOU as suggested benefits the Football Club and this surely should be the primary concern to the Club and the Trust.
Even if NTFC owned this part of the old athletics track what would the Club use this for? The athletics track has already been replaced with a new facility at Moulton College, so why wouldn’t the Club use part of this land which is actually already leased to CDNL to benefit NTFC rather than just allow it to sit there as a disused athletics track.
If you have a different suggested use that directly benefits the Football Club better than what has been proposed, please share this with us, however subject to another suggestion, given the significant time and research that has already been carried out on this matter, we see the proposed option on the table as being the most beneficial to NTFC. POSSIBLE DISCUSSION POINT
4. Development land gain from a joint venture partnership delivers guaranteed future benefit to the club. While accepting that legitimate indebtedness needs to be repaid the club and its supporters, as well as the owners, should also benefit from the receipt of any surplus development profits.
As you know NTFC controls all the leases and also controls CDNL and therefore any development gains will go to NTFC for the benefit of the Football Club. Therefore, this is an agreed point. POINT AGREED
5. The aims of the town’s sport, health and wellbeing strategy are met as part of Northampton’s local plan.
We are not fully understanding why this is even the Trust’s responsibility and certainly not why it would be a necessary requirement for you to be supportive of a deal that primarily should benefit the Football Club. Surely the aims of the town’s sport, health and wellbeing strategy is a matter for NBC and whilst we would want to ensure that any deal presented also benefits the town, our first obligation is to NTFC and we would hope that would be the Trust view also.
We also feel that the existing work that we already do in the Community would play a large part of meeting any of the Council’s sport, health and wellbeing strategy requirements for the town. Maybe you could share this strategy with us and how it incorporates the Sixfields site to help us understand this matter more.
However, for clarity, we also understand the CDNL parcel of land owned by the Football Club has actually been designated as potential employment land in the Northampton Local Plan anyway and the proposed development aligns itself very well to the existing Local Plan. NBC RESPONSIBILITY, NOT THE CLUB OR TRUST
It seems like we have agreement on three of your indicated requirements, we disagree with one but feel the Club has valid reasoning for this, and don’t see the realistic relevance to your final requirement or how that benefits the Club or the Trust directly.
Considering we agree on three of your five points we suggest in the interests of progress we can move past those and focus on understanding the one main point we may disagree on. James and I will be more than happy to jump on a Zoom call to discuss that point with you and your Board if required.
We are now very encouraged that since you have been clear on what it would require for the Trust to take a more supportive approach the path to achieving that is in sight. Feel free to email Gareth to set up a call this week if you and/or the Board have availability.
Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.