Mansfield Town supporters’ collective Stags Fans United have been successful in their bid to protect the future of the One Call Stadium by getting it listed as a Community Asset with Mansfield District Council.
That means that if current owner John Radford or any future owner wanted to sell the site, fans would have six weeks to make a bid to buy it and then six months to follow it up with a purchase, though the owners can still choose who they sell to in the end.
However, Mr Radford this week said he was unhappy with the timing of the bid, despite being at the meeting where it was agreed to pursue it.
“I think the timing could have been better and I’m a little disappointed by the decision taken at this stage to be honest,” he said.
“It may have restricted further negotiations which are currently ongoing and for the benefit of the club.
“I am Mansfield Town through and through and this decision taken by SFU could leave me with the feeling that I’m not entirely trusted.”
John Radford has also frequently stated that he would like to protect the ground so that nobody can buy the club in the future with a view to exploiting the ground for their own benefit
The application to Mansfield District Council registered Field Mill (now known as the One Call Stadium) along with land and buildings lying to the north-west of Quarry Lane as Community Assets.
The application was discussed at a board meeting of Mansfield Town on 3rd November when the SFU say Radford agreed to them making the application following the club’s AGM on 12th December.
Field Mill is the second oldest football ground in the world and the oldest football ground in the world that hosts professional football. It is also the oldest football ground in the Football League.
SFU supporter representative, Darren Shaw said “Mansfield Town plays a major role in the local community and it is good to try and do something that recognises that fact and which also recognises the historical importance of Field Mill.
“John and Carolyn Radford have already taken some excellent steps to promote the club as a Community Club including re-establishing the Centre of Excellence with local young players, supporting the Mansfield Town Ladies team and giving free tickets away to local schools.
“Mark Hemingray and his team also do a great job with Football in the Community.
“Hopefully our application will help the club promote itself as a Community Club and this may be of assistance when the club is applying for grants and financial assistance for community projects.
“John Radford has also frequently stated that he would like to protect the ground so that nobody can buy the club in the future with a view to exploiting the ground for their own benefit.”
Under the Localism Act 2011, community groups are given a legal right to identify an asset believed to be of value to their social interests, and give them a fair chance to make a bid to acquire it if the property owner decides to dispose of it.
Registration of Field Mill as a Community Asset means the council must be notified of any intention to sell Field Mill and the local community would then have an interim period of six weeks to consider a bid.
If a community group is interested, a six month moratorium period starts, and the owner of the asset is not permitted to dispose of it during this period. This gives a community group time to prepare a business plan and find the finances for the bid.
During this period the owner may continue to market and negotiate sales, but may not exchange contracts.
At the end of this six month period the owner will consider all the bids received; but they can dispose of the asset to whoever they choose.
The listing serves only to give a window of time to groups to prepare to bid alongside other potential interested parties if the asset comes up for disposal.
Any disposal after the six month period, takes place under normal market conditions and the owner is under no obligation to sell to a community group.
Stags Fans United, who submitted the application, follow a growing list of supporter organisations who are taking steps to protect their stadiums, with 34 now registered.
On 13th May 2013, the Oxford United Supporters’ Trust, OxVox announced the first successful application of for an ACV had been made, when it was revealed that the Kassam Stadium had been successfully listed.
Supporters Direct have successfully provided guidance and support in preparing applications for Old Trafford (Manchester United Supporters’ Trust), Anfield (Spirit of Shankly), Portman Road (Ipswich Town Independent Supporters’ Trust), The Valley (Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust), Valerie Park (Prescot Cables FC), Liberty Way (Nuneaton Town Supporters’ Cooperative), St Andrews (Blues (Birmingham City) Trust.
Secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles said: “Football stadiums are not only the heart and soul of every team, they are rooted in and loved by the neighbourhoods that surround them.”
On the field, Stags head to bottom club Hartlepool United this Saturday still looking for precious points to end relegation worries.