Shareholders for Albion (S4A), which owns a minority stake in English Championship football club West Bromwich Albion, has lodged an application for The Hawthorns stadium to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
The move by S4A, which represents around 430 individuals who together hold a 12% stake in West Bromwich Albion Group – the club’s parent company – comes amid growing unease over the stewardship of the team by majority owner, Chinese businessman Guochuan Lai.
Following relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2020-21 season, Albion currently sit 23rd in this campaign’s Championship table. Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Blackpool at The Hawthorns was marked by fan protests against Lai, whose portfolio controls 88% of the club’s shares.
While the club has maintained there are no plans to sell The Hawthorns, Albion’s home since 1900, certain sections of the supporter base have raised concerns that this could come to pass amid questions over Albion’s financial status.
The ACV application has been made to Sandwell Council, with a listing designed to protect a plot of land from a quickfire sale to a third party, protecting its position within the local community for generations to come.
S4A vice-chairman, Leigh Kent, told the Express & Star newspaper: “Shareholders for Albion are pleased confirm that we have submitted the application to list The Hawthorns as an asset of community value.
“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.”
The Express & Star notes that there are currently no plans to sell The Hawthorns. An Albion 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.”