Posted: Wed 29th Jun 2022

Wrexham Football Club acquires freehold of Racecourse Stadium from Glyndwr University

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jun 29th, 2022

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The sale of Racecourse Ground stadium to Wrexham AFC has been completed,  with the uni saying they felt the time ‘was right’ to facilitate the club taking ownership of the stadium once again as Rob and Ryan now custodians of the club.

The Club have also asked the WST Assets Ltd. to surrender the lease for the stadium, they say “…as this is no longer required to protect the Racecourse Ground as the permanent home of Wrexham AFC”.

Rob & Ryan, on behalf of the Club, say they have agreed to include a covenant on the freehold to ensure the Racecourse Ground will remain the home of Wrexham AFC until at least 2115, unless a move away is necessary because the stadium can no longer meet the Club’s requirements.

The co-chairmen said: “This is a great day for both the Club and ourselves, and one that we targeted from the first day of our ownership, encouraged by the vote of confidence from the Club’s fans in November 2021.

“While day to day, this changes very little for the Club, the symbolism of this moment is a massively important step for the Club going forward.

“We would like to thank Wrexham Glyndwr University, our neighbours, for the support they have provided the Club historically. We look forward to enhancing our already strong working relationship with them.”

The University have said, “The completion marks the end of the university’s ownership of the stadium which began at a time when the club was in very real danger of going out of existence.”

“In the summer of 2011 Glyndwr stepped forward in the club’s hour of need as the only viable purchaser of the stadium, enabling the Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) to concentrate on gaining the ownership of the club itself.”

“As well as safeguarding the stadium for future generations, the acquisition also provided a top-class facility which provided a range of uses for the university’s students and staff.”

For the first five years the university took on responsibility for the running, maintenance and upkeep of the facility, before a 99-year lease was agreed with the WST in 2016, with the trust taking on responsibility for the stadium operation.

That lease is still in existence, however the WST itself has struggled to function recently with some fans questioning if it has held quorate regular meetings, and if board issues have been resolved after a string of resignations. There is no parallel statement on their website with the landlord change to the same entity as their tenant, with the last news at the time of publication dated August 2021.

Wrexham Glyndwr’s Executive Director of Finance, David Elcock, said: “It was a great honour for us to have been custodians of the oldest international football stadium in the world.

“In 2011, when the university purchased the stadium, it was not only for the benefit of our students and staff, but also the wider community. It was imperative that the football ground was preserved for the people of Wrexham and further afield.

“It was a huge commitment and civic responsibility for us to undertake, but the purchase was crucial in helping to keeping the football club alive during a summer in which the fans raised more than £100,000 in a day just to keep the club in existence.

“Our previous purchase of land alongside Crispin Lane behind the Kop also removed any potential barriers to developing a new stand in the future.

“More than 10 years on it is time for us to hand the stadium back to the club under its new ownership so they can take forward the exciting developments and improvements they have planned.

“From my earliest conversation with Ryan and Rob it was something they were keen to do, and we were happy to help.”

David added: “After the results of the club’s fans survey, in November ‘21, it became particularly clear to us at the university that there was a huge appetite to see the football club own the stadium again and we have been working towards this moment since then.

“I want to say a special thank you to Shaun Harvey and Executive Director Humphrey Ker who have both been incredibly helpful and instrumental in ensuring this transfer went smoothly.

“We continue to work with our neighbours at the football club to enable the delivery of a new Kop stand, and an extension to our student accommodation, as we continue to progress with our Campus 2025 project – investing in the very best facilities for our students and staff. We also remain committed to our role in the Wrexham Gateway Partnership which seeks to further enhance our local community.”

The University have noted the existing agreement enabling the club to use the university car park on matchdays will continue to remain in place.

The freehold purchase brings the club and ground together once more, in what has been a turbulent past on the ownership.

Historically the ground was leased for many years from brewers Marston Thomas & Evershed, with a formal extension to that lease taking place in 1998.

A 125-year lease was secured for £750k and then a £1 a year peppercorn rent – the theory being the club would be able to stay secure for over a century until the year 2123.

But loathsome former owners Alex Hamilton and Mark Guterman embarked on “The Wrexham Project”, shafting the club by effectively switching the freehold to one of their own companies in 2002 after then majority shareholder Pryce Griffiths sold up his shares.

The ‘project’ would have likely seen Wrexham AFC evicted from the Racecourse under landlord Hamilton, and much like long dead Chester City FC up the road, with the ground being converted to a retail park or B&Q.

Whilst lucrative for the developers, it would have probably struck a killer blow for the football club.

Fans and administrators fought to reverse the transactions, which saw a High Court ruling challenged in the Court of Appeal, before the freehold finally reverted back to club which by then was at that point run by administrators.

However, the saga was not over as the club’s next owners, perma-tanned holiday flogger Geoff Moss and Ruthin’s Ian Roberts, carved up the freehold site to build the infamous student flats.

The development was enabled by a ‘gamble‘ from Wrexham Council’s planning committee, who seemed easily impressed by the celebrity appearance of manager Dean Saunders.

The ground was later sold to Glyndwr University in 2011 by Messrs Moss and Roberts as part of an enabling plan to allow fans group Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) to take over the debt-ridden club for a token pound.

The ‘Wrexham Village’ flats remained separate, going on sale for £13,000,000 in 2016, while the WST run club signed a new 99 year lease with the university for use and operational control of the stadium, again with the assurance of ‘securing the club and its historical home in the hands of its supporters for generations to come’.

In 2018, the flats, on part of the old footprint of the site, sold for £11m with the university buying them from Moss and Roberts’ company – with ‘Sibco Ltd’ and ‘Gelco Ltd’ as shareholders.

Thankfully the future appears much brighter with a video fly-thru and images released of an imminent Kop redevelopment plan – more here.

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