THE borough’s political parties have expressed their commitment to supporting Basingstoke’s football club.

Several parties have said that they will help Basingstoke Town FC fulfil its ambitions to return to the Camrose, whilst others have also suggested alternative sites.

It comes in the run-up to crucial council elections, the result of which could help or hinder the club’s campaign to return to the Camrose ground.

Each week, The Gazette will be asking the political parties One Big Question, with the Camrose being the subject of this week’s question. This week, we asked: “The Camrose Football Ground on Winchester Road has stood empty for two years in August. The Gazette has campaigned for the council, which owns 30 per cent of the ground, and landowner Basron to take action to bring the site back into use for the community and to become the home once again of Basingstoke Town Community Football Club. This newspaper believes the site has the potential to be a fantastic hub for residents in a build-up area that has suffered the loss of local facilities in recent times including South Ham library as well as the social club. What is your party’s position on The Camrose and will you fight to protect it from development?”

Of the eight parties to respond to our question, all said they would support the club in its ambitions. You can see their responses in full here.

Hampshire Independents said it “fully backs” the club’s return, but added that it “understand[s] the viability issues for the longer term”, suggesting the redevelopment of the Leisure Park as a feasible alternative.

The Conservatives said that they would “support the club in their aspirations”, and would “listen to their ambitions for the Camrose stadium which must be sustainable with a viable business plan”.

BTFC were evicted from the Camrose in 2019, and were forced to play their home matches in Winchester. They returned to Basingstoke in 2020, playing at Winklebury Sports Complex, although fans and officials believe that it is too small to match the club’s ambitions.

The Conservative administration invested £200,000 to bring Winklebury up to standard to accommodate the move, according to Simon Bound, which provided a “lifeline... by enabling them to return to Basingstoke where they belong”.

But according to Paul Harvey of the Basingstoke and Deane Independents, the council let Basron “dictate to them” for years. “We value local football and we need to help BTFC offer a way out to Basron that helps secure the Camrose as a communit asset,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Women Equality Party’s Priya Brown said: “There’s a huge opportunity for the ground to have a protected area that serves the community. BTFC have made their home at the Camrose since 1949 and deserve to keep it as their ground and space to establish Hampshire’s first female football academy.”

Mayola Demmenie, of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, added: “We think it is unacceptable that the Camrose, which was a public asset, has been sold off for the most part to developers for a pittance.”

Labour’s Andy McCormick said that his party is “100 per cent committed to helping BTFC... return to the Camrose”. He added: “We helped them secure £152,000 funding to move to Winklebury, and will help them once again with the Camrose.”

The Green Party said that it “fully supports” the campaign to revitalise the Camrose, saying it should be viewed as a “social asset”.

Finally, the Liberal Democrat’s Ron Hussey said that the club’s “spiritual home is the Camrose, and the Liberal Democrats want to see it return there, if it is financially viable”.

You can see the full responses from all eight parties by clicking here.