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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Soccer debts blight stadium deal
Swindon Town logo
Swindon Town's logo
Rent debts have cost Swindon Town Football Club a favoured role in a property deal designed to secure its future.

It has been dropped as "preferred developer" for a scheme to build a new stadium, homes and leisure facilities.

Swindon borough councillors made the decision because the club took too long to start clearing 87,000 overdue rent on its current home, the council-owned County Ground.

Property developers had joined the club's management team with the aim of building on a greenfield site known as the Front Garden, near the M4.

County Ground
Swindon Town FC owes 87,000 in rent
The profits would have ensured the club's survival.

There were also worries over who was actually running the club after the previous chairman resigned.

Last month a supporters' trust was formed by fans anxious to keep the club alive. A collection at the launch meeting raised 6,000.

Trust member Terry Norris said he feared club management would quit following the council's latest move.

'Quit' fear

He told BBC Wiltshire Sound: "They were brought in as property developers in the first place.

"They would think long and hard about whether there is any point staying on."

On Wednesday evening councillors decided to open talks with other potential developers bidders because the club had taken too long to start paying off the debt.

Last month the club was given a four-week deadline to begin settling the rent on the ground.

It sent the council two post-dated cheques for the first instalment, meeting the deadline.

Chairman's resignation

But the payments came too late to restore councillors' confidence in the club's stability.

Earlier this summer, club chairman Terry Brady persuaded the council to name Swindon Town Properties Limited as the preferred buyer for the land.

The preferential status meant that potential rivals would not be considered.

The council agreed the arrangement on the understanding that the same people would remain in charge of the club.

But Mr Brady then stepped down as chairman.

The debts began to mount up early this year, when Mr Brady was still in charge.

See also:

06 May 01 | Business
Bankruptcy fears hit football
22 Jun 99 | The Economy
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