Councillor Gavin James' open letter to Basingstoke Town chairman Rafi Razzak in full

10:50am Wednesday 4th June 2014

By John Boyman

Dear Mr Razzak,

As eyes turn to the world cup we should not forget you will soon make a decision they will decide the future of our local football team.

Proposals to re-locate Basingstoke Town Football Club to the Old Common represent a huge financial gamble for both the club and the Council and the tax payers that fund it. A gamble that is likely to be lost if the scheme goes ahead.

If you are successful in persuading the Council that the last bit of Basingstoke original green open space should be used for a new football ground it is difficult to see a positive outcome.

If the club is successful it will need to re-locate to a bigger site and the tax payer will be left picking up the cost of demolishing the stadium.

If the club fails, the tax payer is left with either maintaining a stadium it no longer needs or demolishing it.

If the club continues as it is, then 30 years from now the club and the tax payer will be left with crumbling stadium and dependant on the tax payer to replace it.

In the interim period, the borough will suffer the loss of green open space enjoyed by many and put up with traffic and parking problems that no one wants to impose on those that Cllr Stuart Parker and I represent.

The club’s future will depend on getting additional revenue streams from using the stadium for other events, however with the ground close to residential properties the uses will be restricted. And with parking on the field needed to support the Mayors fireworks, the Transport festival, Basingstoke live and other popular events, the opportunities to hire the venue to others will be limited.

The idea of reducing the impact of the stadium visually means there can be no revenue stream from the external stadium advertising.

If this were the only choice, perhaps it could be understood why the tax payer and club were prepared to take on such a big risk.

But there is an alternative and even an opportunity at the leisure park. An opportunity to put the club at the heart of the borough’s leisure offering. Bringing the football club to new fans whilst simultaneously bringing new business to the Ice rink, cinema. Airkix and bowling complex.

Together, we can create a great day out with something for everyone all in one location.

With better transport access - two road entry points already there and a third could be added. Plentiful parking that could be increased. A shuttle bus service already linking the leisure park with the rail station.

No restriction on hours, giving greater opportunity to secure more revenue from using the stadium for other events and placing the ground just a 5 minute walk from the Hampshire FA facilities at the Winklebury Football complex, which creates an opportunity for sharing facilities for mutual benefit and reducing costs.

Such a high profile location, visible from major ring roads will enable the club to increase revenue from advertising.

I will try to persuade the Council cabinet members to make the right decision for both the club and the borough, though I fear they'll be motivated by the short term political opportunity to put your football stadium on their CVs.

You have been generous enough to support the club for many years and will be driven by a desire for a lasting legacy of a club that can support itself.

I believe that such a legacy can only be secured and even enhanced by bringing the nations game and the towns club to the borough's leisure park.

Cllr Gavin James


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