Chris Marsh Column: Rent break would bring goodwill to Walsall

By Chris Marsh | Walsall FC | Published:

The future of our football club has been thrust into the spotlight yet again after it was revealed Walsall Council hasn't ruled out buying the Banks's Stadium.

It's certainly a good thing they have expressed an interest.

But in my opinion, a sale should only go through if a cap is put in place restricting how much they can charge the club in rent.

It's well documented Jeff Bonser owns both Walsall FC and the ground as separate entities.

And he charges the club hundreds of thousands of pounds in rent each year to play at the Banks’s.

Last year the figure was in the region of £400,000, with that money going into a pension pot of which Jeff in a beneficiary.

Now in an ideal world, a wealthy buyer would come forward and buy both the club and the ground and unite them together.

That way there would be no rent to be paid and that money could be put into the playing budget.

It would make such a difference to Dean Keates.


But wealthy businessmen willing to invest in football clubs are few and far between.

So for that reason, we have to look at other options.

The council owning the stadium is an intriguing option as they are sure to have it's best interests at heart.

I would rather see them in charge of it than a foreign investment firm for example who are only interested in making money. They could do anything with it.


But it doesn't solve the rent issue.

If an agreement could be reached where the council charge Walsall £200,000 a year in rent, at least Keates would have extra money to play with.

It would be good, but it's far from ideal.

Interestingly, I heard this week a group of fans have asked Jeff if he would be willing to take a two-year break from the rent payments.

And if he did agree to that, I think it would be fantastic both for him and everyone connected with the club.

Jeff has his critics amongst the fan base and I have also expressed some strong opinions in this column.

But he has been magnificent for the club.

When he bought Walsall, he put his house on the line and I will always take my hat off to him for that. It was brave and something not many people would do.

And he has got the club on a stable footing and posting a profit. There aren't many clubs who can say that.

I was an apprentice when he took over from Terry Ramsden and the club had got itself in a mess off the field.

But Jeff sorted that out. He did save the club.

And then we got to the Championship under his stewardship, we had some fantastic times.

The problem is football has changed a lot over the last 20 years.

The money in the game has got out of hand. Yet everyone knows Walsall are struggling on – with one of the lowest budgets in League One.

And that has understandably led to Jeff getting a lot of stick.

He has made a fortune out of the club. And if you are going to use a football club for personal gain, you have to expect fans will start asking questions.

For me, it would be an unbelievable gesture if Jeff could give Walsall a break on the rent payments.

He is a Walsall supporter, he is passionate about the club. And this really would delight fans.

It would get them back behind Jeff and unite everyone together. It would be a great gift from him.

And of course, it would give Keates a greater chance of success.

We'll see what happens, but I hope it's a proposal the chairman gives some real thought to.

Finally this week, I just want to say how proud I am of my brother Phil Marsh who is both a nurse and an author.

He's written a few books but his latest one is now sold out on Amazon.

It's called The Giant, The Witch and The Rainbow and is a fantasy thriller. It's doing really well and makes him a lot more successful than me.

There is no danger of my autobiography selling out any time soon.

There are still plenty of copies of The Good, the Bad and the Boozy available online.

I've got hundreds of copies in my mum's loft eroding away and gathering dust. My dad keeps going on at me to move them out.

But we are all very proud of my brother. If it's the type of thing you enjoy reading, check it out when it is back in stock!


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