Adie Britton: Chairman's ground-move plan is only way forward for Bath City
Adie Britton says the “clock is ticking” for the Bath City Supporters’ Society as it investigates whether the club can attract greater community involvement.
City’s largest shareholder is at odds with chairman Manda Rigby over her decision to go public with her mission to sell the club’s prime asset – Twerton’s Mayday Trust Park – and move to a new stadium elsewhere.
A huge question mark remains as to where that might be, although Rigby has confirmed the club is in talks with four different landowners.
Director of football Britton had a spell as interim chairman between the tenures of Geoff Todd and Rigby and believes that without the financial input of both the current incumbent and board member Andy Weeks, the club would have gone to the wall by now.
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He said: “I cast my mind back to March 2011, when the then board asked me to chair a meeting for all supporters in an effort to engender greater positivity and unity between all groups, as well as an increased financial responsibility.
“At the time, the club was in a better position on the field than it has been in its in recent history. Off the field, it was clearly in meltdown and, unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in both missions.
“As a result, the club was in a perilous state. When I temporarily took the role of chairman, there were very few people prepared to take the position and/or contribute financially.
“When Manda Rigby joined in August of that year, she inherited a club which had not only made 50 years of losses but had also experienced various crises as a result of short- term solutions.
“The vast majority of the club’s losses have been met on an annual basis by directors making substantial gifts and loans and this was continued in Manda’s tenure. This cannot go on.
“Manda has concluded that the redevelopment of Twerton Park would be only a short- term fix, an opinion with which I concur. It appears that development of part of the site may go some partial way towards clearing the club’s current debt, but I believe the club will be in the same position in two to five years’ time.”
Under its new chairman Steve Bradley, the Supporters’ Society is currently undertaking a feasibility study into the concept of City becoming a fan or community-run club. Bradley stressed yesterday that no decision either way had been taken yet.
Britton added: “I wish Steve Bradley well in his new role as chairman of the Supporters’ Society and if he is able to raise the £1m-plus to make the football club sustainable, I am sure he will receive everyone’s 100 per cent backing.
“It is clear that the clock is ticking and there is now only a very short period of time available for them to come up with a workable plan.
“In the absence of the Supporters’ Society being able to take on the running of the club, I believe that Manda’s plan of moving ground is the only way forward.”
A debate that has raged around Twerton for a fortnight is set to continue when the TR Hayes Lounge hosts a meet the manager/chairman event this evening (7.30pm).
Britton, who will attend alongside Rigby and head coach Lee Howells, joined the Society in calling for unity on all fronts as the club battles a debt figure of £700,000.
Those sentiments were echoed yesterday by Weeks, who has invested heavily in both the club and its bars since joining the board, although he highlighted “many inaccuracies” in last week’s statement by the Society.
“I was present at a meeting where all the supporters groups were made aware, by Manda, of the various options open to the club when faced with an uncertain future,” said lifelong fan Weeks.
“One of these was for the Supporters’ Society to explore the possibility of them taking the club over and a deadline was set for their proposals to be handed to the board. I am not aware that any such proposals were forthcoming.
“As a result, the present board continued to face ever-increasing costs, expenditure cut to the bone and directors having to personally finance the club through these harsh financial times.”