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EAST STAND DEVELOPMENT: Q&A

Information about the club's East Stand development ahead of Monday's full council meeting

18 February 2022

Ahead of the full council meeting of West Northamptonshire Council on Monday evening to discuss the club's East Stand development plans, the club have published the below Q&A to provide supporters with as much information and detail as possible.

Before the Q&A though, Chairman Kelvin Thomas provides a further update.

“Following further conversations with the officers of West Northamptonshire Council, the club have agreed that upon acceptance of the deal and the stand being completed CDNL will give Northampton Town Football Club the freehold of part of the athletics track allocated to the potential fan zone, car park and future development at no cost,” he said.

“Whilst this doesn’t change our thinking as we have always seen CDNL and NTFC as the same, especially considering NTFC owns CDNL anyway, but hopefully this will add a further level of protection for the club as even the harshest critic will accept that the club owning freehold land has to be better than holding leasehold land.”

Chief Executive James Whiting also updated the position if the plan is approved by Cabinet. This information has also been sent to Councillors and other stakeholders.

THE CURRENT POSITION
• The club has never had direct control of the leases on the development land
• The opportunity to do so only arose when the current owners secured control of the leases through CDNL
• Following that, the owners always said any benefit from the land would benefit the club
• To confirm this, the owners transferred ownership of CDNL from themselves personally to Northampton Town Football Club
• So thanks to the actions of the owners, the club now for the first time ever, has the opportunity to benefit from any funds generated from the land.

IF THIS DEAL IS APPROVED, THEN FOLLOWING APPROVAL OF THE DEAL....
• The club will finally be able to complete the East Stand
• Any development profits will go to the club through the club's ownership of CDNL
• West Northamptonshire Council will continue to be the freeholder for the stadium site and Northampton Town Football Club will be a leaseholder. The stadium will continue to be subject to the existing Asset of Community Value
• Northampton Town Football Club will also hold the freehold for the section of the former athletics track that will initially be a fan zone, car park and can be developed in the future for the club's benefit – this is an asset of significant value that the club has never had!

James Whiting went on to say: “This is quite a simple proposition in the end really and - if approved - this changes the financial landscape of the club and protects the long term future so much more than we could have hoped for.

“Just by reading the bullet points above you see where the club is and will be for the foreseeable future with an undeveloped East Stand and a lease on a disused run down former athletics track, or where we could be with a finished East Stand and some freehold land.

“There is no question in my mind and that of all the staff here that this plan has the overwhelming support of so many people because it is in the best interests of the club.”

Does the Club feel it has the support of the fanbase for this proposal?
The Club feels very strongly it has the support of a very large majority of the fan base for this proposal. The Club held an Open House which was attended by many fans with senior staff including the Chairman available to answer any questions and the Club has also met with many fans, supporters’ groups, stakeholders, and the local community and answered many, many questions. The information has also been made readily available on the Club website and following this the Club held an online poll where 97.67% of fans voted in support of the proposals (out of 2,442 overall votes). This is a very clear mandate to what the majority of Northampton Town fans want.

Does the Club feel the WNC process has been robust?
Without doubt this has been the most robust process that the Club has ever experienced, however the Club understands why considering the past issues. The Club understand now that WNC have obtained all the appropriate independent valuation advice, independent legal advice including obtaining QC opinion and all the relevant checks and due diligence have been completed.

How does the proposal affect the Club’s footprint?
It is a very important point that this proposal only adds to the overall footprint that the club owns and controls. The agreement with WNC is that the Club is buying the freehold, simple. There are ideas but no set plans following the purchase of the freehold but the club will own the asset and then have the option how it proceeds. The original club lease for Sixfields included the athletics track area, however the athletics track area was surrendered anyway under the previous ownership and therefore this doesn’t now form part of the club’s formal footprint currently. Also, whilst the athletics track was part of the Club’s original lease in agreement with Northampton Borough Council this involved conditions for management, maintenance and use by a private athletics club. This area was not accessible by supporters on matchdays and it would be misleading to state that this was truly a benefit of the club or a facility that benefitted supporters of the Football Club. As shown in the plans and CGI’s the completed East Stand will actually involve using more of this area for the direct benefit of the Club and supporters with the possible fan zone areas and new parking, as well as space for the club to grow in the future.

How does the plan affect the ACV – Asset of Community Value – and can this delay the process?
Technically the Asset of Community Value is between WNC and the ACV holder (Supporters Trust). The ACV gives the holder the right to bid for a particular asset but not the right to buy. In simple terms it allows the holder 6 weeks to indicate they would like to bid and then a further four and a half months to deliver the finances. At the end of this six-month period WNC is under no obligation to sell to the holder and any agreement with the club can then be completed. There is also a provision for the holder to waive the ACV at any point during this period.

In terms of this land, whilst the ACV covers the athletics track as well as the stadium it would seem very strange with all the obvious benefits to the club that anyone would want to delay matters for that period of time. If the ACV holder decided to do that we believe it would be very disappointing for the club and our fans, but this is a legal process and the club would be left with no choice just to follow the process and wait for the period to run out. The club has always felt that including the athletics track in the ACV was probably a stretch in the first place as this area of land has not been used by any community group for over eight years and the club has never really benefitted from this land anyway. The athletics track was already replaced with a state of the art facility at Moulton College in 2015 and this area of land has sat disused since then. The club understands the stadium being included within an ACV and have no issue with this but to try and claim that the athletics track land is of club or community importance is not a position the club can agree with. The stadium is protected and will continue to be protected but the club feel the use of some of the athletics track for enabling development and the rest for a possible fan zone area and additional parking can only be considered in the best interests for the club short, medium and long term.

Could the former Athletics Track or part of it be used for something else?
The Club have looked at many different options for the use of this land and spoken to many different stakeholders and experts, however the plan in the Development Overview has consistently come out as the one that creates best value for the enabling land while also protecting any expansion of the Club. We have seen many suggestions made like a velodrome, swimming pools, another athletics track, AstroTurf pitches, rooftop bars, training ground, however having looked at some of these options the Club feel some are just unrealistic and fanciful and most would require further significant investment either from the Football Club or even the Council, and the Club feels strongly that the completion of the East Stand should take priority at this moment in time.

Will the East Stand be completed to a good standard?
Yes, it is important to the Club that the East Stand is completed to the best possible standard. In the development overview, released in June 2021 the Club publicly stated, “The East Stand needs to be developed to the best possible standard in a financially prudent way for the long-term benefit of the football club.” It has also been agreed with WNC that “The East Stand will be designed and constructed to standards in line with (or better than) other comparative modern stadia builds in the UK.”

Will the Stadium now be hemmed in to stop any further development for the Club?
Absolutely not. In all discussions about the future development of the Club and Stadium it has always been a high priority that any enabling development allows the Club to grow as required. In the East Stand development overview that was made available to all supporters and is still available to download via the club web site, the Club confirmed that “Space for a Fan Zone project has been earmarked behind the new East Stand and further consultation would be planned to decide on the best usage.” The CGI’s also produced visually show a fan zone and new car parking areas behind the stand plus the Club has further committed to a review of car parking at Sixfields to enable better design and management across the whole site while utilising other parking options in the area. The map also released as part of the Development Overview shows approximately 19 acres of land still around the stadium that will remain available and under the Club control.

Will finishing the East Stand make the club sustainable?
Building the new East Stand in itself will not make the club sustainable (unless the Club wishes to reduce its playing budget to such an extent that we would not be as competitive) but it will certainly go some way in that direction. It will give the club facilities to generate income on both matchdays and non-matchdays that the club has never had before in its history, and it will be a huge step forward. These changes, along with the hopeful forthcoming implementation of the Government Fan Led Review (Crouch Report) with a potential redistribution of funds, which the Club have gone extensively on record to show support for, will hopefully allow the club to move towards a sustainable position.

Who will pay for the East Stand completion?
Funds will be provided by the Owners of the club to complete the East Stand as has always been stated.

Will it take the 5 years to complete the East Stand and why does the agreed deal allow for 5 years?
Certainly not. It is the club’s intention to begin working on the East Stand once the paperwork is signed and upon completion of any deal. WNC sensibly wanted a guarantee that the East Stand would be completed, and it was agreed that one way to do this was to put a reasonable time period for completion or the land would be returned to WNC, and the capital sum paid by the Club would be retained by WNC. 5 years was agreed as a reasonable period which didn’t put the club at risk for any design and building delays.

How will the completed East Stand benefit the Northamptonshire community?
The club already works with thousands of local people each year to help, support, guide, educate and inform. The club is often regarded as the largest unofficial youth club in Northamptonshire as we reach so many young people using the power of football to break down barriers. The new facilities in the East Stand will be available for use by both Northampton Town FC Community Trust and the club’s education department, allowing us to help even more people across Northamptonshire in the way we help thousands now. On a matchday, the new stand will allow us to offer a first class, covered viewing area for wheelchair supporters who are currently viewing games from ground level, open to the wind and rain.

Will any additional jobs be generated by this proposal for Northamptonshire?
Yes, this is one of the many benefits to the Council and Northamptonshire as part of this proposal. Not only will there be additional jobs generated within the Football Club in the new facilities but if the enabling development is successful there will be many jobs created in the businesses that use the land.

If funds are generated through the enabling development, where do they go?
If funds are generated from the enabling development then the club, as owners of the development land, will benefit. The goals of the club will be to complete the East Stand in a financially prudent way, but as has been agreed with WNC to standards in line with (or better than) other comparative modern stadia builds in the UK, to improve the financial position of the club, replacing the seats in the West and South Stands, and improving the club’s training ground situation.

Will this Development Proposal put the club at risk?
No, quite the opposite. The club will have much more of a secure future if this deal is completed as agreed. Any enabling development proceeds will go into the club for development of the infrastructure and hopefully to improve the financial position of the club. All Football Clubs are at risk when they carry debt and following a disciplined programme of reducing debt while still investing in the club and the stadium, this has to be seen as a positive plan to improve the overall financial stability of the club for the future.

This Q&A formed part of the East Stand development overview document, updated earlier this week, that can be downloaded in full here.

 


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