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Council to fight for Barnsley FC amid Oakwell departure reports

Barnsley Council has said it is “shocked and dismayed” at reports that the South Yorkshire town’s Championship football club, Barnsley FC, is seeking to leave its home of 132 years.

The Daily Mail newspaper has reported that Barnsley FC’s majority owners, a consortium led by Chinese businessman Chien Lee and US counterpart Paul Conway, have held talks with other English Football League (EFL) clubs over using their stadia to host the team’s games.

This comes amid a dispute with former owners the Cryne family, who still own half of Oakwell, which Barnsley FC has called home since 1888. The Cryne family is in the midst of legal action against Barnsley FC’s majority owners for £2.75m (€2.99m/$3.55m) in unpaid instalments from the 2017 takeover of the club.

The Mail, citing a club source, said that a failed attempt to acquire the 50% stake held in Oakwell by the Council has left the majority owners “discouraged and immediately seeking alternative arrangements”. 

The source added that the investment would have improved “dated infrastructure which is rapidly heading into a state of disrepair” and say the move to explore other stadium options has been made amid reduced matchday revenue forecasts due to COVID-19 and continuing closed-doors games. 

“The current landowners do not contribute toward maintenance which makes yearly costs very difficult for the club,” the source said.

Barnsley FC has yet to officially comment on the reports, but the Council has rejected the claim that it blocked the attempt to acquire its share in Oakwell, adding it has never been approached. Barnsley Council leader Steve Houghton told the Barnsley Chronicle newspaper: “We’re shocked and dismayed at the comments regarding the potential relocation of Barnsley Football Club.

“For the last 133 years, Barnsley Football Club has been a significant part of our borough, and we’ll do all we can to make sure professional football is maintained in Barnsley.”

Image: Barnsley FC