Council meeting over potential Poppies site descends into farce

A council meeting to decide whether to begin talks over a potential new home for Kettering Town Football Club turned into an evening of petty squabbles and arguments.

Thursday, 15th December 2016, 9:50 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:01 pm
GV of Kettering Borough Council offices NNL-140821-111627001

Independent councillor Michael Brown had put forward a motion asking the authority to begin talks with the club about the possibility of a stadium at Weekley Glebe.

The bid received support from the Labour group and the council chamber was packed with Poppies fans.

Conservative deputy leader Cllr Lloyd Bunday proposed an amendment, saying the council would continue investigating all sites rather than committing to opening discussions on one - and from then on it was chaos.

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The amendment was passed through with a block vote from the leading Tories, leading to boos and cries of “disgusting” from Poppies fans.

Poppies campaigner Richard Atkinson says fans are fed up of “empty words”.

He told the chamber: “We want the council to make a commitment to hold talks and this would go some way to what supporters are asking.

“We would urge every councillor here to take this opportunity to show that they are listening to our interests.

“We have had many years of empty words.”

Cllr Brown said: “This motion is about beginning conversations to show supporters that this is moving forward.

“It’s not about signing any contracts or making decisions, it’s just about holding talks.

“If these conversations do not go anywhere we can move on.

“Let’s not drag this on any further because we have been working on this for years.”

Much of the debate focused on whether or not the council or the club was being pro-active in communicating with each other about working together, with both sides of the room suggesting both parties had not done enough.

Cllr Brown said that senior council officials had not held talks with the club for almost a year despite the club’s efforts, with Cllr Bunday saying the club had not put any plans forward since 1981.

Cllr Bunday also said he was disappointed that fans had chosen to take this route after meeting with them last week.

He said: “There were six or seven options at the meeeting, some of them had legs, some of them didn’t.

“I find it disappointing that supporters are now deciding that if we don’t start talks about one of the options that it means we aren’t listening.”

Councillors from both sides of the room started arguing about ramifications of either motion.

Cllr Lesley Thurland asked why there were no representatives of the club there.

Two board members in the gallery offered to speak but as they hadn’t offered to at the start, they were not allowed to.

The Poppies left Rockingham Road in 2011, and MP Philip Hollobone spoke to say it wasn’t the council’s fault they are not playing in the town.

He said: “If we do support Councillor Brown’s motion then we could be mandated.

“I can assure you that not supporting it does not mean we are not supporters of the football club.

“These things need to be looked into very carefully.

“We are all supporters of the club but having arguments and blaming the council for the issues is not fair at all.”

Before the meeting, leader of the council Russell Roberts said they welcomed working with the club in the future.

The council will now continue investigating potential sites for a new ground - but this investigation process is now likely to come under heavy scrutiny.