Newark and Sherwood District Council responds to calls of further support as Newark FC face move away from Lowfields
Supporters and management have appealed for more council support after it was confirmed Newark FC will leave their Lowfields ground next season and play home matches out of town.
Lowfields is set to be lost unless an agreement over a lease can be agreed with landlord Charles Collier, who plans to build homes on the site.
As well as being home to Newark FC, formerly Newark Flowserve, which plays at step five level of non-league, the facilities host cup finals, youth football teams, charity tournaments and community groups.
Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for a community trust to be set up to protect the sports site, off Hawton Lane, Balderton.
Petition organiser Stephen Crane, 67, of Balderton, said Newark and Sherwood District Council ‘has not helped whatsoever’, despite suggesting it would act as a mediator in the dispute.
Stephen said other supporters had told him to stop campaigning, fearing all of his hard work would count for nothing.
He said: “We have done our best and, with everything that is going on, it is all we can do.
“Some time ago, they (the council) said they would act as mediators between the football club and the landlord to help negotiate a reasonable lease. The council has not helped whatsoever.
“I am hoping to be in a position to have 1,000 signatures and take it to the council offices by the end of April.”
At a meeting in November, council leader David Lloyd said it felt like the council had been held to ransom by the Lowfields owner.
“It is absolutely a requirement that we seek to broker a way forward here,” Mr Lloyd told councillors.
“Sadly, it is entirely appropriate that we are ready for the worst case scenario that, should it come to it, we would assist the organisations there to find an alternative home.
“I hope that never arises. Those clubs have the full support of myself. We will do everything we can to support those very long-standing club which are significant community assets.”
Craig Roche, joint-manager of the football club, said the backing of the council was needed.
“They said they would help us in that public meeting if we needed to relocate, so hopefully there is something that can still come from that,” he said.
“I will be very interested to see what he (Mr Lloyd) has to say (now we are not at Lowfields).
“I was enthused when I saw that meeting because they shared the same frustrations and anger that we had experienced. I felt encouraged that we would get some support.
“But now the fact we are playing out the town says it all — it is far from ideal for our income and running costs and, ultimately, it is the fans who are going to suffer.”
Mr Lloyd said: “The council’s preferred option has always been for Newark to remain where they are and continue their progression from their existing site.
“However, the site is privately owned and neither the football club or the council are able to insist on terms that are acceptable to the club.
“It’s extremely frustrating that club are being priced out of their ground — the council is unhappy about that but can’t stop it from happening.
“The priority now is to find an alternative ground for Newark and we are the discussions with the club about how we can help with that.”