BASINGSTOKE Town Football Club chairman Rafi Razzak says the club needs to move into a stadium that matches its ambitions on the pitch.
The club have today announced plans to relocate from their current home at The Camrose, in South Ham, to a new, purpose-built stadium on land to the west of the Hilton Basingstoke hotel, in Eastrop.
The Camrose ground would be replaced by a retail park, creating 300 new full-time jobs, with the money raised from the development of that land being used to fund the new 5,000-capacity stadium on the other side of Basingstoke.
New all-weather training facilities, which would be available for community use, also form part of the new stadium project, which would cost between £9million and £10million.
The plan is the culmination of many years of hard work for Town chairman Mr Razzak, who suffered the disappointment of seeing plans for a multi-sports hub at Down Grange scuppered in the last couple of years.
Mr Razzak, who has been the key financial backer for many years, is determined not to step down from his role at the club until it is in a stadium fit for the Football League.
“The aspiration, when I got involved at the club 20 years ago, was to create a sports stadium that accommodates all of our requirements,” he said. “This plan is a culmination of many long years of working to create something that I can leave behind – a football ground that the town can be proud of.
“At a time of economic slowdown and recession, for us to come up with a plan like this, without using a single penny of taxpayers’ money or funding, I think is very exciting.”
Mr Razzak said that the club have neither the space nor the funds to redevelop The Camrose to the necessary standards, and he insists that developing, or selling, the land and moving to another location is the only way forward.
“The Camrose has been a fantastic home for us for well over 60 years and it has seen many great sporting moments,” he said. “But now it is in such need of modernising that it threatens to become a major obstacle to realising the club’s dreams.
“We have some big ambitions for the future and the sad fact is that none of it can be achieved with the ground as it is, falling so short of Football League standards.
“The club doesn’t have the money to fund a redevelopment so it’s best for us to develop the land and use the proceeds to secure our future.
“It is commercially not viable to develop The Camrose. We spent a lot of time looking at it but it will not work.
“The area is more populated now and we feel it is time for the club to relocate to a location that is more conducive to football, away from houses and retail areas.”
If everything goes according to plan, the new stadium should be completed in March 2014, with the club moving in at the start of the 2014-15 season, and the retail park at The Camrose opening at some point in 2015.