On Friday 21st April, I attended a meeting with Simon Bound from BDBC and David Knight from Basingstoke Town Ltd. I was keen for a meeting to take place because BDBC and the club had both previously claim different stories in terms of neither parties meeting being on the same wave length. Summary below.
The meeting kicked off just before 5pm.
• Simon Bound cleared up immediately that the planning process COULD take place whilst football is continued to play on the pitch. BTFC believed from a previous meeting that this wasn’t the case, however it was agreed that this mistake was due to a misinterpretation of the conversation that took place with the planning authority and BTFC. It was requested that this was passed on to Rafi Razzak ASAP! David said he had not heard from Rafi following an attempt to contact him earlier in the week… In my eyes if the club does move to Farnborough and doesn’t play next season this will be out of spite.
• Whitchurch isn’t a viable option anymore.
• It was brought up that Basingstoke isn’t really a ‘sports town’ and this was the problem why the club is so disconnected with the community…however I blamed it on the failure of the club at connecting to the town. I brought up an example of how when we stood in festival place with a few players and Stokie a few years ago – that people were asking where we play and shocked we had football team in the town. It’s clear to see that the council recognise that only small minority are impacted by this issue.
• Not worth looking at other sites for redevelopment – this will take time, and more money!
• It was asked if Rafi would really step down. I was told he would not be funding the club anymore come end of May. I asked again if he wouldn’t be involved anymore, and was told he would still be the owner – this is a matter that needs to be cleared up.
• I asked if he would be leaving with the club debt free as stated on the radio. David said this is why he is selling The Camrose, Simon Bound said Rafi was very clever in his wording about leaving it debt free and could be interpreted several ways.
• Four 3G pitches are being planned by the council, these will only be pitches though. So would need investment. BTFC are in discussions with one of the sites for a potential home, however Simon Bound was keen to highlight that the specific site was one of the worst place for “not on my patch” campaigners.
• The meeting on the 31st came up. David knew nothing about it. Simon informed us both that it was suggested we both are invited to speak to put our points across. He expected that it would be attended by a mixture of people for and against football in Basingstoke. It was asked what would be the likely outcome of the meeting. It was said that likelihood is that lots of councillors will make acquisitions about how has it come to this etc, but nothing will really happen.
• Hampshire FA has agreed to let the Basingstoke Ladies Team play at the Winklebury Facilities next season after not allowing BTFC not to groundshare. This sounded like it was a result of pressure from Maria Miller and Simon Bound. Seems strange that they would let them play their but not BTFC. Wonder what BTFC LTD has done to upset them!
• Council’s 29% – a land swap option was discussed, but the cost of redeveloping the land would be too costly. It was asked if the BDBC would be interested in purchasing more land from Rafi – No. Impression was given that the 29% would be sold if BDBC got an offer, the value per ache is too valuable. Let’s face it makes sense to sell it sadly and is the right decision for the tax payer.
• Rafi would need to replace the loss of a football pitch with a new football “pitch” in Basingstoke, – however this could be placed in a farmers field and be acceptable.
• Malcolm’s name came up lots – i.e. It depends what Malcolm and Rafi want to do etc. I asked if BDBC would be more supportive with Rafi out the picture and received an interesting response.
• Simon Bound agreed that the communication to supporters had been poor. It was argued that all the information was out in the public eye and nothing was done in secret and BDBC knew about Rafi’s purchase. However I argued that you need to look after your customers and provide them all the facts, you shouldn’t have to go hunting for them!
I thought Simon Bound came across really well in the meeting and it was clear he is keen to help. But his hands are tied. One man sadly has all the power. It was acknowledged that this has the potential to become a political weapon and that fans should remember that some of the councillors who signed the petition to save the club were also some of the same people who signed the petition for the club not to move to the Old Common…..
I provided an additional list of questions to David Knight when we departed and also asked how much money Rafi would accept if someone want to purchase the club and ground he said £7 million. I asked if he had finally been in contact with the interested party who had got in touch off the back of the Ebay stunt. He said he contacted them a couple of weeks ago and signed an Non- disclosure agreement. It’s sad that the PR company just ignored this lead, I wonder how many other interested parties were ignored by them? I wonder what their real agenda was? I wonder if Rafi ever wanted to sell, or would rather it die so no one else could succeed with something what he has failed at?
I actually came out the meeting with little optimism. The BDBC need to have the interests of the residents of Basingstoke at the heart of every action, so it’s a case of who do they keep happy – 500 fans happy of the entire population of the Borough. It’s not worth the battle for them in neither time or cost to fight Rafi from redeveloping the land. The meeting on 31st May will allow supporters to show their support and ask questions direct. It was also asked that the club provide supporters a similar forum. I was glad to find out that we could stay at The Camrose for another year and planning permission could still go ahead. It would make sense for us to stay for at least another season – we would benefit from revenues that would be lost if we moved to Farnborough. If he does make the club move its nothing but out of spite. Why is Rafi doing this? He wants his money back, he’s a business man, in his eyes this is a successful business transaction. He’s not a football fan. How anyone can an own for a club for over 20 years and not fall in love with it is beyond me. It makes me sick to the stomach, that someone with already so much money, wants to destroy a community and leave it in tatters.
So what’s the next steps?
For me I think its key that as many people turn up and ask questions at the council meeting at 31st. We need to show an appetite for football in the area. But before that we attend 2nd May and watch Basingstoke Town FC hopefully lift the Hampshire Cup.
Sadly if the club does move to Farnborough, I have failed and I sincerely apologise that I haven’t been able to stop this from happening. What it will do is spur me on to the launch of a phoenix club. A club that will be connected to the community, a club that we can be proud of, a club that will be our club, a club where history won’t be repeated. Yes it may be a club that may have to start from the bottom and work its way up. Funded on a shoestring, but it will be a club that plays in Basingstoke and proudly represents the town of Basingstoke.