Saddlers fans fear on future

Worried Walsall fans today revealed their fears after the Banks's Stadium was put up for sale.

Worried Walsall fans today revealed their fears after the Banks's Stadium was put up for sale.

Suffolk Life, who own the freehold, confirmed they will sell up, but have not stated a price tag.

The Saddlers issued a statement today and insisted any change of ownership will have no bearing on the running of the club. The stadium's ownership has been a major issue with supporters.

The club pay rent to Suffolk Life and they were charged £466,752 last year.

Supporters group Unity admitted they were cautious but hope it can lead to a positive change.

It said: "Unity welcomes the news today that the freehold of Walsall FC has become available to purchase.

"Last season we campaigned for the return of the freehold to Walsall FC and we remain cautious as to the ambition of any would-be landlord but we hope this is a progressive step in the transformation of our football club. "

Express & Star columnist Darren Fellows revealed his concern over the potential deal and believes it could spell trouble.

He said: "This is a day which has been looming for a long time, since they sold Fellows Park and chose to rent the Banks's Stadium.

"This is what people worry about, if it's in different hands you lose control. Our chairman Jeff Bonser needs to come out and say something, he needs to reassure people."

The club are meeting with Unity, the Trust and Supporters Club on Wednesday for pre-arranged talks.

Chairman Bonser has stated he wants the freehold back with the club and has been looking to quit the Saddlers around 10 years.

DTZ, the property agents charged with finding a buyer, believe the freehold could be sold by July.

They have had no early interest and Nick Allan, a senior director, reassured supporters a new owner could not price them out of their home.

He said: "Walsall have the right to stay there for 17 years and have the ability to extend it for another 33 years after that.

"There are no mechanisms in the agreement to change the rent other than RPI (retail price index).

"New owners can't rip it up and say 'I'm going to charge £1m a year'."

The club declined to comment when contacted by the Express & Star today.

Comments for: "Saddlers fans fear on future"

saddlerjp

The club declined to comment - says it all really, i'm sure we'll get some spin filled statment devoid of facts and full of contradictions in due corse

Craig

I don't know how but the club need to buy the freehold, I don't know how, but it must.

Jimmysrightglove

It's simple, if the club don't purchase the land now the club will be dead inside 5 years! Continuing to pay rent that will increase each year will drive playing budgets, we'll fall further down the leagues, crowds will continue to fall and so on and so on.....................

Patrick Hadley

Craig, it would be disastrous for the club to attempt to buy the freehold at its current price of around £8 million to £10 million. That is what Plymouth Argyle did a few years ago and they are now on the verge of bankruptcy.

Sadly the club is going to have to pay an increasing element of rent every year for the foreseeable future. Last year the rent was greater than all the profits from the commercial and entertainment side of the club. We all know who has benefited from the current situation and who caused it, but it seems the E&S is censoring comments that spell this out.

MrTikkaWearsOldGoldnBlackYfronts

ridiculous really that they had to go down this route, surely it's in the best interests of Walsall council to actually have a league football club in the town ? they should have provided the land/plot for the stadium to be built and the club just pay any maintenance/upkeep cost etc etc.

Mall

Basic business sense keep the club and freehold separate if ever the club went into liquidation there would always be a ground for a new team to play on also new owners could not use the ground as collateral and put the club at great risk

Locky

SaddleJP Said:

"The club declined to comment – says it all really, i’m sure we’ll get some spin filled statment devoid of facts and full of contradictions in due corse"

To be fair JP, there is not a lot more "the Club" can say other than what they have already said, ie: the club has a lease and other than having a different Landlord, there's not change.

The sale is of the freehold/stadium which isn't owned by the Club. I know it is difficult to seperate JB and the Club given how they are linked, but any statement would need to come from either from Suffolk Life or direct from him as the Club is a seperate entity and strictly speaking the sale is nothing to do with the Club.

Penhevad

It would be interesting to see the results of an independant valuation. The true value must surely relate to the established use and realistic turnover projections for that use - unless someone wants to speculate on re-development.