Corby Town FC has commenced legal proceedings against the borough council after a financial fall out which could force the football club into administration.
The club has recently run into cashflow difficulties after Corby Borough Council cut funding it says was promised to it back in 2007 in a deal that saved the council £45,000 per year. The funding of £90,000 per year from the council was agreed in a Service Level Agreement in October 2007 in exchange for Corby Town Football Club managing the Rockingham Triangle Community Sports Facility for at least 10 years.
The club says it was agreed that the council would invest over £1 million (including support from the Football Foundation) in the Rockingham Triangle facility to establish a community sports complex which would be run by the club.
A row has now erupted after the council spent the entire budget on the Steel Park Football Stadium, leaving no funding available to complete the Community Sports Facility. The council also cut its funding to the football club leaving it £143,500 in arrears to date and leaving an anticipated shortfall of £405,000 on the Service Level Agreement funding to 2017/8.
The council has argued that the 2007 Service Level Agreement is not valid as it was signed by council officers with no committee resolution ever being passed to authorise this. The club now says that the funding cut by the council could force it into administration, leaving Corby without a local football team and the Rockingham Triangle and Steel Park facilities sitting empty with no agent to manage them.
In 2013 the council set up a cross-party working group to oversee the investment of a ringfenced £200,000 capital sum in completing the Rockingham Triangle Sports Pavillion, using £104,000 of grant funding from the Football Foundation. The project has however stalled after relations between the council and the football club broke down following a row over what faciliies should be included in the Pavillion building and the ongoing funding of the facility. Members of the Working Group are insisting that the entire Pavillion should function as a community sports facility, however chairman of Corby Town Football Club, Kevin Ingram, has warned that without using areas of the facility to generate commercial revenue, there will not be enough funding available to properly run the facility or to operate any meaningful sinking fund for ongoing repairs and maintenance, thus not ensuring sustainability.
Kevin Ingram has now produced a proposal to incorporate conference and function room facilities into the Pavillion and has invited the Working Group and Council Officers to meet with him and other directors of Corby Town Football Club to discuss a solution.
Mr Ingram said: “All we want to do is make the football club and Rockingham Triangle sustainable. At the moment we are running the facility for the council without the funding that was agreed in the Service Level Agreement and we simply cannot afford to continue this way. If Corby Town Football Club goes into liquidation then the council will be left with a huge sports facility and nobody to run it. We are more than willing to meet with the council to agree on how to proceed, but so far only the Conservatives have been forthcoming in talking to us.”
Conservative working group member Cllr Rob McKellar said: “The working group is taking a very blinkered approach. Of course it would be wonderful if we could have a facility that was 100 per cent dedicated to community use, however we need the facility to be sustainable. Unless we introduce a revenue stream then the taxpayer will be forced to pick up the tab for running the facility using money that the Council simply doesn’t have.”
The football club has commenced legal proceedings against the council but says it hopes that a solution can be reached by negotiation.
A spokesman for Corby Council said: “We are currently responding to legal proceedings initiated by Corby Town Football Club and as a consequence we are following external legal advice.
“Since late 2013 the council has sought, before any meeting, a brief outline in writing of Corby Town Football Club’s proposals and we are currently still awaiting this.
“The £200,000 of ring-fenced investment does not include the use of £104,000 of grant funding from the Football Foundation, this £200,000 is Corby Council funding.
“In large part what is presented as CTFC’s proposals are not new and Corby Council has made it clear to the club that community use in the pavilion is the first priority. The council has a responsibility to the tax payers and wider community.”