Swindon Town has teamed up with the English League Two football club’s supporters’ trust to agree a deal to acquire the freehold to the County Ground stadium.
An agreement in principle has been reached with stadium owner Swindon Borough Council. The deal has been valued at £2.2m (€2.56m/$2.89m) and is set to be voted on at a council meeting on March 20.
The Wiltshire club has played at the 15,728-capacity County Ground since 1896 and both itself and Swindon Town Supporters have previously been engaged in separate efforts to purchase the freehold. However, the two parties decided to join forces in August and if the sale is agreed it will mark the first time the club has owned the stadium.
The 50/50 partnership with Swindon Town Supporters intends to place the club’s fans as vital stakeholders in the County Ground’s future. The trust will launch a share issue to attract investment from fans for its share of the deal.
Swindon Town Supporters chairman Steve Mytton told BBC Wiltshire: “We want to make it very affordable. We’ll get that price down to as low as we can. We want thousands of fans to get involved and we’ll make sure it’s possible for that to happen.”
The club said the deal will also enable a programme of improvements that will vastly enhance the experience of supporters and improve facilities for all within the community. Lee Power, chairman and owner of Swindon Town, said in a statement: “Owning your own ground is fundamental to the long-term success of any football club – it will give us the opportunity, going forward, to make this club more sustainable and develop firm foundations in the heart of the community.
“This project, for us, is part of a wider plan to develop the club into one with its own training ground, its own home and the flexibility to decide on its own future in partnership with the people that love it.”
Regarding the partnership with the supporters’ trust, Power told the Swindon Advertiser newspaper: “I think this can have a positive knock-on effect to on-pitch matters. If we can make the place a bit more attractive to families and create a bit more of a buzz around the place, naturally the ground will fill.
“We’ve got a great supporter base – the football has been in the doldrums for the last couple of years. Hopefully this will give everyone that little injection to want to come back and grab that spirit again. It’s an exciting time for everyone to move forward.
“It’s all possible from the council, and everyone needs to be aware of that. They’ve been the key player in this. At this stage, they are the ones that need to take the plaudits.”
David Renard, leader of Swindon Borough Council, added: “Not many of these joint ventures exist. Having the Supporters Trust as joint owners of the freehold is very important as it gives the fans, who are the lifeblood of the club, a stake in the club’s home and will help to preserve its legacy.
“This deal would also pave the way for significant improvements to the County Ground, which is located at a key gateway into the town centre. The football club needs to be able to generate more revenue and we hope that if the sale is approved by the Council, success off the field will be replicated with success on it.”
Image: Swindon Town