News: Open Letter to the People of Basingstoke and Deane…

Open letter to the people of Basingstoke and Deane from Rafi Razzak, chairman of Basingstoke Town FC

I am proud, and honoured, to be the Chairman of Basingstoke Town Football Club – a position I have held for more than 15 years.

I believe that the town’s football club is at the heart of the local community, and that it is very much ‘the people’s club’ – one that has always striven, and has great potential, to make a positive contribution to the economic growth and profile of the town.

During my time as chairman, I have personally subsidised the club with substantial annual funding to help ensure the continuation of senior non-league football in the town and to maximise our contribution to the community e.g. through our academy and activities for young people. I have been happy to do this as part of my support for our great town and borough.

As a custodian of this historic club, which was founded in 1896, I feel I must now speak up as I think it is important that I should make people fully aware of the potential implications of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s recent decision to reject our proposal to use land west of the Hilton Hotel at Black Dam to build a new community stadium.

For the last 15 years, I have been asking the council to work with the club to find a site on which we can build a new stadium for football and community use. The club needs a new stadium because it is not possible to invest in the existing Camrose Stadium to bring it up to modern standards, due to the limited length of the existing lease which we are unable to extend.

Without a new stadium, the club cannot progress and provide a standard of football and community facilities to match the ambition and growth of the town. Neither will it be possible for football to make the valuable contributions to the economic prosperity and profile of the town which have been evidenced in so many places around the country.

Over the 15 years, the club has co-operated fully with the council as various locations where a new stadium could be built have been considered, and then rejected. The vision was to create a sports complex that can accommodate the Football Club, the Rugby Club, the Hockey Club, and the Athletics Club in Down Grange. That vision, I am afraid, went astray and new sites were recommended by the council.  These included the Leisure Park, Gresley Road, and the land west of the Hilton at Black Dam. We are now told that no options are left, following cross-party private meetings held by councillors, which is very frustrating. This also leaves the club in a very difficult position.

Our existing business model, in our current location, cannot be sustained and, unless we can find a location on which we can build a new stadium, the future of the club in the town is very uncertain. Discussions need to start soon to enable sufficient time for a solution to be found, and myself and my colleagues are already exploring any option that may be feasible. We may face having to leave the Camrose and may have to look to ground-share with another club outside of the borough.

I very much hope that our borough council will want to be a part of any solution, and can help prevent the club being lost to the town and its people.

I think it is important to make the current position clear to everyone so that no-one is in any doubt as to the challenges and difficult decisions that lie ahead.

I am very grateful to everyone who has supported, and worked so hard for, the club during my long tenure as Chairman. I hope a solution can be found that ensures Basingstoke Town FC can continue to survive, thrive and make a telling and valued contribution to the town where it belongs.

Many thanks

Rafi Razzak

Rafi Razzak, Chairman, Basingstoke Town Football Club

10 Responses

  1. Mr G. Massey

    With the backstabbing council were burdened with I can see no future for any football of senior standard in this town in my lifetime, it took them ten years and many devious meetings to suddenly decide there was no where posible for a new stadium to be built.
    The Basingstoke people should rally around to support a new stadium and try to come to an amicable agreement on its whereabouts.
    I read every week in the non- league paper of new stadiums being agreed so why does this town have so much difficulty in finding a new home the town can be proud of.

  2. Julie Partridge

    Devious meetings? In 2014, when the 2012 proposal resurfaced and was called in to Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet were completely in favour of it. They were of the opinion that all they had to do was rubber stamp the decision. The talk was all of Free use of the Community Facilities by kids’ teams etc and Cabinet were dismissive of opposition.
    However, over many following meetings, all open to the public and webcast live, opposition speakers put their varied cases – be it historic value, wildlife, use of open space, or the financial sustainability of the stadium itself. Petitions were raised, protest meetings held and correspondence poured into the council in protest.
    Against this, the club put forward no supporting evidence apart from stating the need for a new stadium and trying to take over Basingstoke Live! Most of the meetings, they didn’t even bother to attend. Fans could have attended, officials could have attended, but they chose to sit back and assume it was a done deal.
    The councillors simply changed their minds about giving away public open space to a private limited company, and pointed out at the final meeting that they had had loads of correspondence against and none in favour. Why on earth should the town do anything?

  3. Colin Upton

    I have lived in Basingstoke all my life and always quick to defend negativity often aimed at the town. I feel Basingstoke has always had a lot to offer,good location good schools shops etc
    However when it comes to our local football team the town is left wanting. The support mr Razzak has given is truly remarkable to a town that has HUGE potential.
    This potential is now zero with the narrow minded fools at the council deciding there is no suitable place in our green and wonderful town,Basingstoke.
    Surely someone should be held accountable for leading Mr. Razzak on for 15 years. I can only begin to imagine what a huge personal cost it’s been.
    If Mr. Razzak calls it a day,and who can blame him, where does that leave BTFC?
    This town deserves league football. The fan potential is massive.
    Basingstoke council hang your heads in shame. The future could have been so bright.
    Now there is no future
    BTFC RIP

  4. Lloyd

    Basingstoke council are systematically destroying this town bit by bit, first ensuring that the towns nightlife declines so much that hardly anyone goes out at the weekend anymore, charging astronomical rent in town so we hardly have any shops left apart from Greggs, coffee shops and book makers. All the big businesses we had in the town have one by one upped and left. And now the football club is at risk, a place I was taken to as a child, a place I continued to go to and still do. In these times of football league clubs becoming more and more expensive to go to with children with travel, ticket prices and everything else, I can see teams like basingstoke flourish, as it will offer a cheaper more family friendly alternative and to assist this we need a new stadium.

  5. HWS

    Come on Basingstoke Council, you cannot let the town lose it’s football club, that would be a crime !
    Surely there must be a way of planning a stadium somewhere – Down Grange or even Manydown, which is still in the planning stage – or perhaps there is still a possibility of a new lease agreement at the Camrose?

  6. John Lawton

    when Basingstoke became a new town in the 60s the future was bright for an up and coming town within a few years the local football team had progressed from a local league to the southern league and they even built a new stand’ the town had huge businesses and the largest carnival in the south of England which was backed by local businesses but these things have all disappeared in a town that must be at least three times the size it was then so what has happened in the meantime? You have council that just wants to build houses and office blocks and shops that they charge too much rent for and now it seems they don’ want to help the football club progress or build any decent facilities for the community to enjoy sport thank you B&DBC very much!!!!!

  7. Lindsay Batcheler

    I am Basingstoke born and bred, and first went to Camrose in short trousers, as I now live away from the town I rarely see them and only support them from afar. In recent seasons the club has been in the playoffs, but the fan base is still less than 500! When I have seen the problems at Aldershot Town FC over the years, what brings them back to a much higher league status than Basingstoke is the fan base, we are comparing thousands as against hundreds! Basingstokes’ population is much bigger than Aldershots’ so why is the support not much higher? The capacity at Camrose can hold many more than 500, and until there is a groundswell in support and two promotions ( sadly relegation is now confirmed), I cannot see any change to the current position.

  8. Brian Russell

    I totally agree with what Colin Upton says. I have been following BTFC since the early 80’s, even though I cannot attend many games due to my refereeing commitments. As long as I can remember, the council have never supported any forms of football in the Basingstoke area, from BTFC to the local leagues. The council even wanted our Sunday team to buy our own goal nets to use on a council football pitch. The further BTFC progress in the football pyramid (The Football league), the more people will come, then more income will be generated in this town. Please, do not let BTFC die, get your heads out of the sand and give BTFC the new stadium they deserve.

    PS,
    Are you the same Colin Upton who played for BTFC back in the 80’s, Dave Eddie, Steve Frangou et al ?

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