As usual, the rumour mill has been working overtime with a lot of wildly inaccurate speculation about what may, or may not happen with 1874 Northwich next season.
Firstly, as I said at November’s supporters meeting, Witton Albion needs a groundshare partner. These arrangements work; they bring in rental income, additional bar and catering income. This income directly impacts the quality of player we are able to afford, and thereafter on our league position.
1874 is one of a few parties with whom we are discussing a possible groundshare from next season. However, and as with previous arrangements with Northwich Vics and Runcorn Linnets before that, any deal must work commercially. We know what it costs to run this stadium and need to make a sensible profit on top of that from any rental agreement. However, any groundshare agreement must work for both parties. Master/slave relationships never go the distance.
Having successfully staged Sunday’s FA Vase game between 1874 and Pontefract, 1874 have asked us to stage their next FA Vase tie. This takes place when Witton are away so the stadium is available. Unlike the Pontefract game, which was a gesture of goodwill to, and mark of respect for 1874’s late chairman Paul Stockton (although we did receive a fee) any future games would be on a commercial basis.
The groundshare agreement currently in place is for a 28-day period. Should 1874 wish to use our facilities for future games this season that would be subject to commercial terms being agreed and an additional 28-day groundshare agreement being put in place. Staging their games when this stadium is available helps both Witton Albion and 1874 Northwich.
We are NOT about to sell any part of Wincham Park to 1874 Northwich or any other 3rd party. When last valued the ground was worth well over £2m, and the board regards this as the family silver. The value of any equity stake is based on a current valuation, so talk of £375,000 buying a 50% stake is total rubbish. A half share in the asset would cost anyone over £1m.
If at any point the directors did wish to recommend such a move, (which we do not), then the decision would be for shareholders and shareholders alone to take. A conventional groundshare agreement would be the decision of the board, as it has been in the past.
As a club we need to expand our facilities to create the seven day a week usage critical to sustainability. One way in which to do this would be to install a 4G pitch. This would enable the surface to be used by the community and to meet the criteria set for the new 150 community hub projects announced by the FA this week.
If we had such a facilty, we would plan for 40 hours per week of revenue-generating activity on the pitch including Saturday mornings. To see what can be achieved, just look at how far Hyde and Basford United have travelled in a short period of time.
Our car park is not big enough for a full size artificial turf pitch (ATP) which is needed if the true revenue potential is to be realised. As they cost between £300,000 – 500,000 to install, we do not have the resources to do so, even with the maximum 50% grant funding available from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund. You can buy them cheaper but, as Sutton Coldfield will tell you, that is false economy.
It makes business sense to evaluate every available option to realise such an ambition including a joint venture with other parties to develop new, additional facilities in which a funding partner would have a financial stake. That model is not the same as handing over a share of the equity in Wincham Park. 1874 Northwich is not the only partner with whom we might achieve this objective and not the only party with whom we are having talks right now.
However that is for the future. Right now we are exploring possible groundshare partnerships of which 1874 is one. We may stage further games this season. If we do agree any deal for next season, that agreement must be ratified by the NPL by 31st March. As and when there’s more to tell you, we will.
In the meantime, if you want to know the in’s and out’s, just come and ask me. I’m really quite approachable you know!