January 1, 2000

All of us with an interest in Bristol Rovers have been concerned by our current position in the League Two table.

The last three games have brought about a sharp upturn in fortunes and the indicators are that the second half of the season will be better than the first. However, the underpinning faith throughout has been the prospect of a brand new 21,700 seat stadium in South Glos.

We have come a good way along a very bumpy road from the time we lost Eastville to the developers. The move to Twerton saved our club and eventually enabled our move back to Bristol and the ownership of the Memorial Stadium. Back in the 1980’s many thought us grounded but Denis Dunford, son Geoff, Ron Craig and others, notwithstanding the efforts of Jim Chappell and the Supporters Club saw us through.

The saga of famous old football clubs losing their respective grounds never seems to go away. Wikepedia tells us that Northwich Vics are an old club, founded in 1874 and named in honour of the reigning monarch at the time Queen Victoria, and are one of the top 100 oldest football clubs in the world, and one of the top 50 in England, still in existence.

The site also tells that they played at the same Drill Field ground for over 125 years, which at the time was believed to be the oldest ground in the world on which football had been continuously played, however after a ground sharing period with their local rivals, Witton Albion, they started the 2005/06 season in their new stadium, the Victoria Stadium just outside the town.

The website describes the ground as follows:

On one side is the large Dane Bank covered terrace. Interestingly it was transported piece by piece from the Club’s old Drill Field Ground and erected at the new stadium. Opposite is the tidy looking Victoria Stand. This all seated covered stand runs for around half the length of the pitch and sits astride the half way line.

Running across the back of the stand is a glass fronted area which includes some corporate hospitality areas. Both ends are small open terraces. The ground has a set of four modern looking floodlights. Away fans are mostly housed in the West Terrace at one end of the ground, with some seats also being made available in the Victoria Stand.

Sounds really good, so what’s the problem then? On the club’s website we find this:

The club has been issued with a notice to vacate the Victoria Stadium after learning from joint charge receivers at business advisory firm Deloitte Touche that a third party bid for the land has been accepted. It is not known at this stage who the buyers are. The club has asked Deloitte for further information, but has not yet received a reply. In the meantime, owner Jim Rushe is seeking legal advice on the club’s current position.

Arrangements for forthcoming home matches, including Tuesday’s scheduled Mid Cheshire FA Senior Cup semi final against Winsford United, were due to be announced. It has since been confirmed that Deloitte, having claimed that Vics have had enough time to purchase the stadium, has sold the site to Thor Specialities UK who are housed next to the ground. The football club have been ordered to quit, just like that.

The ground is new, has a sizeable car park, plays hosts to business conferences, weddings and other social functions and is no doubt an integral part of the local economy as well as the local community. I understand that Deloitte have a job to do but I ask, what do they know and what do they care?

The fate of Cromer Town is even more bizarre. Founded in 1898/99, the club find themselves in a strange legal battle to say the very least. I found this on the News Norfolk website:

The future of a Norfolk football club thrown into doubt by the death of a Norwegian monarch in 1991; Cromer Town Football Club was bequeathed its Cabbell Park ground in 1922 by rich local landowner Evelyn Bond-Cabbell but a clause stipulated that the lease would expire 21 years after the death of King Edward VII’s final descendant.

When his grandchild, Norway’s King Olav V, died on 17 January 1991, it was thought the countdown had begun. But even after that deadline passed on Tuesday, the club’s future is still no clearer after the saga took a new twist.

Legal experts have suggested the Anglian Combination Premier Division side could have the right to remain at its current home until 2032; this because another George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, was the final descendant of the king. He died in July last year. Lawyers are looking into whether the agreement covered the monarch’s wider family. The 7th earl was one of the king’s great grandchildren.

After reading this you could be forgiven for thinking that our recent history was simple! You can be sure that it was not, but thanks to Denis we were able to recover.

Thank you Denis Dunford, may you rest well and God bless.

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