Cambridge United completes purchase of Abbey Stadium

English League One football club Cambridge United has completed the purchase of Abbey Stadium from property developer, manager and investor Grosvenor.

Cambridge announced on Friday that there has been further equity investment into the club by the existing owners of £4.5m (€5.21m/$5.17m), the majority of which has been used to fund the purchase and meet associated costs and expenses.

Abbey Stadium has been Cambridge’s home since 1932 and the club announced in March that it had reached a deal to regain control of the ground. Grosvenor agreed terms to sell the freehold of Abbey Stadium back to the club after almost 12 years of ownership.

Grosvenor bought Abbey Stadium in 2010 following financial difficulties which almost forced the club to close. As property owner and partner, Grosvenor has helped the club recover and supported the development of the Cambridge United Community Trust.

Abbey Stadium was initially sold in 2004 to a company owned by director John Howard, Bideawhile 445. Howard later attempted to move the club out of Abbey Stadium and into a new home in Milton, an effort that failed to come to fruition.

The purchase of Abbey Stadium also includes the current Thrifty car hire site at the front of the ground, along with the bungalow on the front right of the stadium.

Paul Barry, majority owner of the club, said: “20 years ago Cambridge United had to sell the Abbey Stadium just to survive. It was a low point followed by tireless work from countless people to keep the club afloat whilst at the same time trying to find a new home elsewhere in the city.

“But deep down we always knew that, if we had the choice and the chance, we would want to stay at the Abbey with all its charm, memories and imperfections. Today I am proud to say that Cambridge United once again owns the Abbey Stadium.”

Barry said in March that the agreement would incorporate a ‘golden share’ concept to prevent its future sale. Details of this will be worked on during the coming year alongside the creation of a new shadow board.

Following the completion of the deal, Barry said: “We all know that the ground requires significant modernisation and improvement. We will be looking at potential ways forward over the coming months but just to manage expectations, it will clearly take time and money.

“Self-evidently, we have had to commit significant investment for this deal alongside our other immediate priority of improving the training facilities at Clare College during the next close season.

“That said, we are all ambitious to move forward as quickly as we can. We will be as open and transparent as we can be on any future-plans and we also look forward to working with the new shadow board on the golden share protections for the ground, once the board has been established in the coming weeks. Whatever we decide, we know we will need our fans’ support.”

James Cochrane, project director of strategic land at Grosvenor, added: “We are delighted to be returning the stadium back to a resurgent Cambridge United. The club is in a much stronger position today than in 2010, on the field, commercially and as a major contributor to the community. Playing a role in this success has been incredibly rewarding and we wish them luck in the season ahead.

“It is fantastic to be able to continue our partnership through our support of the club’s ‘Mind Your Head’ programme. Supporting young people to develop their mental health literacy is a cause close to our hearts.”

Image: Steve Daniels/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size