Express & Star

Shareholders 4 Albion nominate The Hawthorns for Asset of Community Value as West Brom make stadium vow

Shareholders for Albion have confirmed their application for The Hawthorns to be listed an Asset of Community Value – a move welcomed by the football club.

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S4A, an independent association for minority West Bromwich Albion Group shareholders, have formalised the nomination to help ensure Albion's home is secured for generations to come.

The application to Sandwell Council is backed by the football club. It is understood there remains no plans to sell The Hawthorns, the club's stadium since 1900.

An Asset of Community Value (ACV) on buildings or land can be nominated by a group to be listed by the council. The listing is designed to protect the plot from a quickfire sale to third parties and safeguards its position within the community for years and generations to come.

A club spokesperson said: “West Bromwich Albion welcomes the application for The Hawthorns to become an Asset of Community Value, which will help to secure the future of our historic stadium for generations to come.”

There have been concerns among sections of the fanbase that The Hawthorns, or other buildings belonging to the club, could be sold. But the club stress there are no plans to sell the stadium.

S4A have worked through the process of formalising the proposal for the ACV.

Vice-chairman Leigh Kent told the Express & Star: "Shareholders for Albion are pleased confirm that we have today submitted the application to list The Hawthorns as an asset of community value (ACV).

"Whilst this does not prevent The Hawthorns being used as security (any company in England can use its assets in this way), it does mean that if and when a transfer of the land itself is proposed (as opposed to a transfer of shares i.e. if Holdings itself is transferred/its shares in Group are transferred to a buyer), the land and property would first have to be offered to us on any such proposed terms.

"It therefore provides an extra layer of comfort for us all, by enabling us to prevent the split of ownership of the football club and the ground, as we have seen at other football clubs.

Kent added: "Legally, there have been a number of hoops to jump through and it is necessary for the application to be submitted by Shareholders for Albion.

"Morally, we are submitting this on behalf of every Albion supporter. S4A members are Albion supporters first and foremost (I am a home and away season ticket holder of 30 years). Being shareholders gives us the ability to take the steps that we do to try and protect our Club. This application is just one example of the work we are carrying out at present, in the interests of Albion."

Councillor Les Trumpeter, for Charlemont with Grove Vale, raised the matter at council in July.

He Tweeted: "After raising the matter at full council on 26th July 2022, I am pleased to announce that an application to list The Hawthorns as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) is now with Sandwell Council.

"This is large step towards protecting the @wba stadium and I trust @SandwellCouncil will now utilise its full powers and fast track this application given the urgency.

"Many thanks to Leigh Kent (Vice Chair) of the S4A group who has worked tirelessly on this matter."

If a community organisation nominates land or building to that meet the definition of an Asset of Community Value and the process was undertaken correctly then the local authority must include the asset on its list.

Once a site is listed as an asset, the local community must be informed if it is listed to sale. A Community Right to Bid moratorium period of six months will then be granted to raise necessary funds.

Other stadiums in the country, including Old Trafford and Anfield, are listed as ACVs to protect them from quickfire sales or other wrongdoings.

During last night's victory over Blackpool supporters protested against the club's owner and majority shareholder Guochuan Lai, whose portfolio owns 88 per cent of West Bromwich Albion Group – the parent company of the football club.

In the summer, the club's delayed accounts revealed Lai took out a £4.95million loan from Albion for another of his businesses, Wisdom Smart Corporation Limited.

They marked the 12th minute of the 1-0 win with a 'Shine a light' protest joined in by hundreds after organisation from fan movement group Action For Albion.

S4A, formed in 2000, consists of members who are owners or part-owners of shares in WBA Group Ltd. The remaining 12 per cent of shares under their control, and not owned by Lai, belong to around 430 individuals.