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.
Rafi Razzak, Chairman, Basingstoke Town Football Club