Uckfield football club has cleared its debt with the town council.
The rent arrears had grown to just under £5,000 leading the council to declare the club in breach of its lease. See story here
As well as clearing the debt, the football club has told the council it will relinquish the lease for the upstairs room at the Victoria Pleasure Ground pavilion from the end of January next year.
It was for these premises, which has a bar and was used as a social facilty, that the debt accumulated.
The club hires the pitch and downstairs facilities at the pavilion and these are unaffected.
New club chairman Kim Rogers (pictured) attended a meeting of the council’s general purposes committee on yesterday (Monday, December 2) to introduce herself to councillors.
She said once she knew the full details of the debt it was “cleared immediately”.
Mrs Rogers said the club was relinquishing the lease for the upstairs area because it ended in May, there were no debts, the current economic climate and being unable to negotiate a pro-rata rent reduction.
She told councillors: “As a committee of a ‘non-profit organisation’ run by volunteers we felt the only way forward was to move downstairs so we could continue providing sport for the local community as we have been since 1880 as we look forward to the future.”
The club is keeping the lease through December to honour bookings and will use January to remove its fixtures and fittings fromm the premises.
In discussion with councillors, Mrs Rogers said: “We feel this is the right thing. If we could have reduced the amount we paid each month, we would have stayed up there. It’s a lot of money (£720 per month) to pay out.
“As a small club we cannot carry on the way we were doing.”
She said the football club would now work in “partnership” with the cricket club and use the facilities downstairs.
The council’s general purposes committee agreed to note the club’s termination of the lease, to suspend the notice to quit and confirmed the council “wishes the football club all the best for the future and hopes it will thrive and grow”.
Responsibility to ratepayers
Committee chairman, Cllr John Carvey, said they wished the football club success in the future but added they had a responsibility to ratepayers.
In a separate written statement, which Mrs Rogers handed to the council, the club said there had been key personnel changes in recent months which “regrettably had consequences with administration and signatory access to the club’s bank account”.
The changes were against the background of horrendous weather during the winter of 2012/13 when the club lost 11 weekends of football and corresponding revenue opportunities.
Root of the problem
The statement said: “This loss of income would impair any business cash flow let alone a club geared for sport and run by volunteers.
“These factors were the root of the problem and we believed that a provisional plan of action had been agreed. Therefore, we were disappointed at the decision (to serve notice) that was reached.”
It went on to say the club was a large provider of football in a structured, safe and fun environment and addressed several key criteria for the local community:
- reduced crime and anti-social behaviour by providing an outlet for local youth;
- engaged all ages in a healthy and recreational past-time;
- promoted personal development through individuality, teamwork and socialisation one would associate with a community club culture.