Blues Club tell their side of the Northolme tale

The Blues Club have told their side of the ‘Northolme story’ after negotiations with outgoing Trinity chairman Peter Swann broke down.

The Northolme G111122-1
The Northolme G111122-1

Matt Lyner, chairman of the ‘Gainsborough Trinity Supporters Club’ said the committee were breaking with tradition and policy to make a statement, to make clear their position on Swann’s attempts to buy the ground.

Swann revealed last week that he is leaving the club, having given up hope of securing the Northolme.

But the Blues Club insist that they did not break off talks, and were willing to listen to another, improved offer after rejecting previous offers that were considered insufficient.

Lyner’s statement also reveals that the Blues Club will, finances allowing, support Trinity in the post-Swann era.

“Prior to Mr Swann’s involvement with Gainsborough Trinity, we as a club donated £25,000 for six seasons to the football club.

Two of these donations were made when HM Revenue and Customs debt collectors were trying to recover unpaid taxes.

In addition to the cash donations, we as a club provided, free of charge for each home match a three-course meal for the sponsors, half time food for the directors and food for 50 players and officials after the game. We also provided sandwiches and drinks for the away matches.

In addition to this we paid the insurance for the ground, washed the kit after each game and cleaned the changing rooms. This was all done for a yearly peppercorn rent of £36 although this did increase to £500 prior to Peter’s involvement.

I appreciate people will say this was int he past but unfortunately by the time Peter was involved with the football club, the supporter’s club no longer had any spare cash to donate to the football club each year. This was nothing to do with a clash of personalities with Peter but the general downturn in the pub and club trade and the money we had previously donated.

One of the first things we did when Peter took control was to have meetings with him in respect of what the supporters club provide to the football club.

It was in fact Peter who suggested, as he has stated in previous communications, increasing the lease to £10,000 per annum to cover the cost of the food and wages incurred by the supporter’s club in providing their services to the football club.

However, it should be stated that the rent is a reduced rent not a market rent. The supporter’s club still to this day pay for the insurance for the ground, provide food for the players and officials after each game.We let the football club use the facilities at the club on the park free of charge on each match day or as and when required. Up to the commencement of the current season it provided the food for the supporters and washed the kit. Although we could not donate the large amount of cash donations we had previously, we were still contributing to the cost of running the football club indirectly.

During the plans drawn up by Peter and all the meetings held in respect of the three new grounds, we never spoke out at our disappointment at the football club leaving the Northolme.

Peter stated that the club could never be self sufficient at the Northolme and needed to move to generate the extra income the football club needed.

It was then to our surprise, considering his previous statements, that in November last year we received a letter from Peter with two offers.

Offer A was for the supporter’s club to transfer the ownership of the ground and buildings to the football club and then the supporter’s club to pay a peppercorn rent for part of the building.

Offer B was an offer for £300,000 for the whole of the supporter’s club’s assets.

This comprises of the ground, the supporter’s club (Blues), the club on the park and four houses on Carlise Street together with all fixtures, fittings and goodwill.

Those were considered extremely low by the committee and were therefore rejected. The committee’s decision was based largely on a valuation carried out four years earlier which was substantially more.

We had a meeting in December 2012 with Peter were we stated we did not wish the supporter’s club to be part of any offers but would listen to any future offers for the ground and the club on the park.

Also during the meeting we offered Peter a lease on the ground for how many years he wished. We also offered the football sole use of the kiosk, so they kept the takings and a percentage of the bar takings on match day

In April we then received an offer of £200,000 for the ground and the club on the park. This was again considered low and rejected by an EGM was called by myself to explain our decision to the members.

It is the committee’s responsibility to get a reasonable offer to put to the members. The supporter’s club had not put any assets up for sale it is the football club looking to purchase.

There is still six years remaining on the lease and the supporter’s club would have to pay capital gains tax and a large solicitor’s fee and this would only result in net proceeds of approximately £100,000.

I received communication on Friday 12th April from Peter who had heard the statements at the meeting and he requested a meeting early in the week commencing the 15th, as it seemed he thought we would reach agreement on an acceptable offer that would be put to the members.

On the day of our meeting (18th April) I received communication from Peter stating that he would make no further offers and would try to arrange a meeting with the new chairman as soon as possible.

This was confusing as there were contradictory local press releases on that day.

The supporter’s club would like to stress that it is the football club who has walked away from the negotiations and not us. We were prepared, as we have after all previous offers, to discuss all future offers.

This has been a very difficult time for all involved. We as the supporter’s club could never satisfy all our members in this process due to their feelings on the topic. It became apparent from the EGMs that some members clearly would have liked the cub to sell while others had no wish to sell it.

I admit there have been faults on both sides and in hindsight things could have been done differently but we can only learn from this process.

We look forward to meeting the new chairman of the football club while we would like to wish Peter and his family all the best for the future and hope his health problems are in the past.

It is our wish, as it has always been for Gainsborough Trinity to play on the Northolme and we will continue to support the club in any way possible, as finances allow.”