War of words explodes in Chichester City’s battle with council

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Chichester District Council today stand accused of trying to put the city’s main football club out of business.

Bosses at Chichester City FC say the council is risking the very future of the club by refusing to issue a lease for the clubhouse, which has been largely unused over the year since it was built.

They have issued a new plea for council chiefs to meet them face-to-face to discuss the lease but say they’re fed up with the authority putting obstacles in the way of their attempts to take the Oaklands Park outfit forward.

Council officials responded to the latest claims by saying they are keen to ensure the city has a strong and sustainable football club but need to be satisfied the company running the club are solvent and properly constituted.

Last week the Observer reported the club’s frustration with the non-issuing of the lease that would allow them to start generating the sort of revenue they need to survive in division one of the Sussex League.

The council responded by saying it was still waiting for certain information which would confirm the club’s board could run the club. Now the board is losing patience, insisting its attempts to meet council representatives have been blocked for months.

Chairman Oliver Adnan said he could not understand why the building, paid for using a significant amount of public money, was handed to previous club chairman John Hutter last July without a lease.

Adnan questioned why the points being raised by the council now were not raised then.

He said there had been two meetings between club and council in November but none since then, with the council now directing all communication through the two parties’ solicitors.

“This is costing thousands of pounds we don’t have and would rather spend on football development,” said Adnan.

“The council are systematically trying to put the football club out of business.

“The club have access to funds from sponsorship and advertising which will be released to us if a lease is issued. Available funds will be enough to cover current debts and allow the football club to run county league football at Oaklands Park for the 2011-12 season.

“Chichester District Council obviously don’t want county league football at Oaklands Park.”

Board member Sean Forry, a former Chichester and Portfield footballer who now coaches the club’s successful under-18s, accused the council of going back on a formal agreement to support one main football club in the city.

The agreement was made when the merger of Chichester City and Portfield went through 11 years ago.

He said: “I believe CDC made their mind up some time ago that they would not issue a lease to the merged clubs’ company and that this somewhat aggressive stance is more of an effort to put distance between themselves and what has gone before, rather than a balanced, commercial view of the current management’s vision and strategy to repair and progress the city’s football club.”

The lack of income last season saw Chichester City, under Adie Girdler and Dave Kelly, slide down the first-division table.

A district council spokesman said: “We are passionate about sport in the community.

“We want to make sure the city has a strong and sustainable football club that develops teams for men, women and young people.

“We need evidence from the directors that they meet all our requirements to manage the community’s assets. This includes written evidence to prove they are solvent.

“We also need evidence that shows they’re properly constituted. We cannot issue a lease unless we are provided with this information. This is in the interest of both the club and the community.

“We will continue to try to resolve this. Our main priority is making sure that football is nurtured and developed in the city.”