Chichester football clubhouse empty because council won’t sign lease

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A new £950,000 football clubhouse has been left largely unused for almost a year because council officials are refusing to sign a lease.

This week the board of directors of Chichester City and Portfield United Football Club wrote to all Chichester district councillors outlining their frustration over the situation which they say threatens the very existence of football in the city.

The clubhouse at Oaklands Park was built last year and is owned by Chichester District Council but has hardly been used because CDC is still making a decision over who to award the lease to.

As reported in the Observer’s sports pages last week, CDC said it wanted to make sure the club was solvent and properly constituted.

But the club said the delay meant it was losing out on thousands of pounds of potential revenue which would allow it to survive in Sussex League 1.

Vice-chairman Sean Forrey said: “It’s a waste that the whole building is sitting there empty and that the club is being put into financial difficulty because of it.”

On Tuesday the club wrote to the council giving it 24 hours to confirm whether it had permission to at least use Oaklands Park for the season ahead. On Wednesday, it received a call from the league that permission had been granted.

Yesterday Mr Forrey said: “Our main priority was for the teams to be able to play somewhere and our point as a board was survival of the club.

“Our first priority has been met and we are very grateful to the council for allowing us to use it for the next season and we look forward to meeting with the council to discuss the future.”

In a statement the council said: “We are in the process of contacting the club to arrange a meeting.

“We want to resolve any issues regarding the lease as soon as possible. We are continuing to offer the use of facilities in the short-term to enable football to continue next season. We also hope that a long-term solution can be agreed quickly.”

The two clubs were merged in 1999, and an agreement drawn up by the clubs and the council that money from the sale of the Church Lane site in Portfield be used to fund improvements at Oaklands Park.