BREAKING: Cobblers chairman Thomas says he may be forced to sell share in club over Sixfields redevelopment frustration
Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas has admitted he and the board of directors may be forced to sell their controlling share in the club over the continued delays in the redevelopment of the east stand and surrounding areas at Sixfields.
The club released a lengthy statement on Wednesday morning, outlining their frustration with delays on the redevelopment, which has completely stalled since 2015, and calling on the Northampton Borough Council to finally get things moving.
The statement released on ntfc.co.uk read: “The Board of Directors confirm that having grown totally frustrated with the complete lack of action, co-operation or communication from Northampton Borough Council, they are reluctantly open to a discussion about selling their controlling shareholding in Northampton Town Football Club.”
Chairman Kelvin Thomas, who took control of the club in November, 2015, said: “We find ourselves in an extremely disappointing and almost impossible position and having tried over so many months every possible approach to Northampton Borough Council to regularise the east stand lease position, we feel that we have little choice but to step aside and allow others to complete the process.
“Regularising the lease position should not, under any circumstances, be controversial and we have been merely asking NBC to correct their own error made back in 2013 which was before our involvement.”
Cobblers director David Bower went on to explain the situation, and added: “For reasons known only to themselves, on 17 September 2013, NBC granted a lease of an area of land adjacent to and forming part of the East Stand to County Developments Northampton Ltd (CDNL) set up by the previous chairman and his partners. This land was already leased to the club.
“After taking over the club and understanding the full picture, it was clear this situation needed correcting and we assumed that NBC would work with us to this end.
“To ensure that we could effectively sort out the council’s error, Kelvin and I paid a considerable sum to allow CDNL (which by then had been placed in liquidation) to go through a Company Voluntary Arrangement.
“This process was completed in the face of considerable opposition from various officers and members of the council.
“In an effort to frustrate our plans the council unsuccessfully wasted considerable sums of public money in legal fees when the council could have achieved what both they and the football club required with a more co-operative approach.
“For almost 18 months we have been asking the council to allow CDNL to surrender the relevant area to the football club so that there was no potential conflict.
“In December 2017, after many months of pushing, solicitors instructed by the council, sent to our solicitors a draft Deed of Surrender.
“Our solicitors processed this within one working day with minimal change and returned the draft Deed to the council’s solicitors.
“However, since then we have not been able to make any further progress despite numerous approaches to various Officers of the council and in fact we received notice last week from the council solicitor they were still waiting for instruction from the council.
“A promise was even made by the council to the Supporters Trust that the surrender would be completed by no later than the end of March 2018, a deadline that passed without any movement.
“The Deed of Surrender merely gives up without any payment or other consideration any claim which CDNL has, to the relevant area which would remove any possible conflict for the club in the future.
“Unfortunately, the ownership of the club and CDNL is not 100 per cent common because the club has many additional smaller shareholders, mainly fans, alongside Kelvin and myself.
“It is also very important to protect the interests of all the parties that the lease position is legally correct.”
Mr Bower said, despite the simplicity of what was being proposed, the council had continued to prevaricate, leading them to believe it was a personal issue that the council had with himself and Mr Thomas.
“Kelvin and I have tried on behalf of the club to engage in a constructive fashion in regard to the real opportunities that exist on the Sixfields site, but no action is ever taken and this lack of action on the lease position is the final straw for us,” he said.
“If we felt confident that we could have a reasonable dialogue with the council on matters then our view may have been different, but we have to draw a line in the sand at some point.”
Chairman Thomas added: “We are confident there is still a really good opportunity for the club’s wider development and we do think the council can play a positive role in this matter for the benefit of the whole community, but it seems that needs to be with someone other than us.
“What is most frustrating, considering what happened prior to our ownership, is that we have not asked the council for anything other than to work together to regularise this incorrect lease position to protect the club.
“This process is not contingent on any other matter, tied to any additional land or requires any council funding.
“The Supporters Trust have also tried in vain to get information from the Council and have had numerous missed deadlines and whilst we have been able to show the Trust legal confirmation that what we have said is correct, we understand the council have been unable to provide any legal confirmation to substantiate their claims.
“We have also taken time to meet with (Trust) chairman Andy Roberts and board member Kevin Simons from the Trust and were very open with our frustration and we know they are working hard to find out what is going on also.
“Financially, we are in a strong position to open conversations about the shareholding of the club and it is important to make clear that we will continue to support the Football Club as normal during our ownership.
“The existing budget discussed with James (Whiting) and Dean (Austin) does not change in any way and this will be a competitive budget for the league next season.
“The club has always been stable financially under our ownership and this will continue, and we will complete any discussions in a professional manner.
“We do feel this creates an opportunity for someone, or a group, to be able to take the club forward.
“We would love those conversations to be with local people and are very open to that, but what is most important is that our discussions are with people who can demonstrate the appropriate level of finances, energy, and desire to progress the club.
“We have always tried to be as open as possible with supporters whilst trying to advance matters regarding the east stand in the background with the council and we are firm in our commitment that we will put the club first, but it is now with a heavy heart that we have reached this point as we feel we have been left with no choice.”