What has been allowed to happen to the Camrose stadium is a scandal.

That is the message from former players of Basingstoke Town who have blasted Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and landowner Rafi Razzak for their treatment of the club.

As the grounds that once drew crowds of up to 5,000 lies empty and run-down, fans and ex-players have spoken to the Gazette about their distress over what they say is the ‘biggest scandal to happen’ to non-league football.

Paul Clift, who played for the side in the 1970s, said: “I saw the club play in the 1960s. It was a great club in those days. I played in the ground in the 70s and later at this ground in many cup finals.

“It is part of our heritage. We have been living in Devon for the last seven years, we’ve just come back and I can’t believe what has happened. It is unbelievable.”

His wife Jane, who would come down to the Winchester Road site to watch him, said: “We have been married for 40 years and I have spent many a day watching from the side lines.

“I have many fond memories of watching a FA Cup match here against Northampton [which was televised on Sky]. It is sad that so much of this area is being sold up for redevelopment.”

Stuart “Duchy” Holland was a player who stormed the pitch during the club’s glory days in the 1960s - and was actually the hero of Paul Clift. He said: “I used to play for the team in the 60s, when they won the Hampshire Cup and the league. I lived in Western Way so it was a short walk to get here.

“I had forgotten all about the covenant. Nothing should be done and I had forgotten all about it until the Gazette ran the story last week.

He added: “We were all told that back in those days [Camrose must be a football ground]. It has meant so much to me. It was good, it was local. We had some very good players. Because of this club I played for Hampshire in the county competitions.”

Harry Franzman, former player for South Ham in the 60s, now a taxi driver, 66, from South Ham added: “I think it’s completely wrong the field has been sold underhandedly, so it’s a huge loss for the community. This is a nostalgic monument for many of us so to see it go before it’s time is heart breaking.

“The club needs to stay at the Camrose, Winklebury will be an awful move for the club, the route is terrible, they’ve still got to build the clubhouse - it’s just not good enough.

“If [Rafi Razzak] has any morals he would leave the club where it is but he won’t, we all know he won’t.”

Billy Coombs, former player, now retired, 65, from South Ham: “I’ve got so many fond memories here, I grew up here, I played here and started my career here.

“It’s scandalous what he’s [Rafi Razzak] doing here, the children in Basingstoke aren’t going to have those memories of the football club, it’s a real loss for the community.

“This is the core of Basingstoke where clubs from all over come together to play a lifelong sport, I’ve made so many friendships here I don’t think I would be the person I am today without this football ground.

“They are building so many houses and communities in Basingstoke they need to organise the community clubs to meet the growing number f people.

“It’s so sad, I wish I had got involved sooner because it’s so important to me and the community of the Basingstoke.”

Adrian Donnelly, 67, former player now retired, from Beggarwood: “This ground really gave me the inspiration to pursue a career in football back in the ‘70s, I remember one of our best games was the blacks versus the Test Valley and more than 600 people came to watch it was brilliant. It was such a lovely place to play.

“Even if we played at away games, we would always meet back up at the Camrose clubhouse because it was such a buzzing, busy place, but that’s changed since Razzak took over.

“Before he became the new owner, we had a football academy but that’s gone now, he has stopped the local cup finals being played, the club has completely fallen away and hasn’t been improved since he moved here. He’s got all this money and none of it has been spent on restoring the club.

“All my life in Basingstoke this ground has been here, and it would still be a thriving community space if it was properly maintained.

“I started the campaign two weeks ago and through this I have met several former players that I had never met before, it shows this community is still needed in Basingstoke.”

“It’s absolutely shocking, it’s all lies, lies, lies. He is completely in control because he bought all the shares of the club on the same day four months after he bought the land, I think that was a real tell-teller that something was afoot.”

David Graham, 67, retired match reporter, from Kempshott said: “I have always been an avid supporter of the football club and I started campaigning for four years as part of my ‘Keep football in Basingstoke’ movement, I’m quite bitter about it because it has been going on for years.

“People have chained themselves to the goal posts before now but I think that with the recent developments planned for the ground it suits the council to move the ground outside of Basingstoke.

“We were told in the council meeting (19th July 2017) that their solicitor had that they couldn’t find the covenant or that it was lost when they hadn’t it was public knowledge for us all to see.”

“This is the biggest scandal to football history, Winklebury is a bad option for the club. When Bury were struggling to keep afloat the council got stuck in and are working out a way to resolve the issue. Our council are totally different, they want absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Alan Munday, former referee, 64, from Basingstoke: “A borough of this size deserves and needs to keep a facility such as the Camrose that is available for conference standard football and local teams to enjoy.”

“Basingstoke Town Football Club must not be evicted from the Camrose ground without it being provided with an alternative home of its own, that has facilities equal to, if not better than, the Camrose ground.

“Winklebury stadium is barely better than the local pitches, it doesn’t have anywhere near as much atmosphere, facilities or ‘buzz’ that the Camrose offers. The current situation is a tragedy that should never have happened.”

“It is a disgrace what has happened at the club and the stadium. The only way forward would be to re-develop the current stadium or replace it with a facility in the town that is capable of hosting Conference standard football, something that Winklebury will never be able to offer.