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Saddlers fans fear on future

Walsall | Sport | Published:

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.

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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.

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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.

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