A DECISION by Rotherham councillors this week to lend the Millers £5m towards the cost of their new stadium has been attacked by the council’s Tory group leader.
Cllr John Gilding said: “I find it staggering to find ourselves in the position where we seem to think we can drum up £5 million.
“The club are getting gates of something like 3,500, but there are 250,000 people that live in Rotherham.
“Yes, we all want them to have a prosperous football club but £5 million is a lot of money.
“I certainly don’t think we should be as involved as we are getting.
Rotherham Borough Council backed proposals this week to lend Rotherham United £5 million repayable over five years towards the £17.3 million ground on the former Guest & Chrimes site.
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It has also emerged that Rotherham Titans are in advanced negotiations about moving to the Millers’ former ground, Millmoor in a deal that would see the council taking over the lease of the ground from the Booth family and charging the rugby club rent.
Council leader Roger Stone said that the two deals would help regenerate the town while Millers chairman Tony Stewart said he would be delighted.
The Millers have spent the past three seasons at Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield after being given temporary permission by the Football League, but the new ground is seen is vital for its future and that of the town.
£2.3m shortfall in funding for stadium: See this week’s Advertiser.
THE ADVERTISER SAYS . . .
Borough council gives clubs a sporting chance
WITH so many millions of pounds swishing around professional football, players changing clubs for tens of millions of pounds and weekly wages ten times the annual salary of a typical supporter, fans can be lulled into thinking that money grows on crossbars.
Professional and semi-professional football clubs cannot balance the books and so resort to making up the difference through the patronage of owners/directors who, ironically, made their money through the acute business acumen which now enables them to indulge their new-found passion.
It’s not an investment—not a sound one anyway. Football swallows up money with the effectiveness of a basking shark filtering plankton, while fans who think twice about paying an extra few pence for a pint of beer happily dispense millions of theoretical pounds of other people’s money in the pursuit of success.
Rotherham United is no different from the other clubs in the football league, although there is a greater urgency in escaping the lowest level where failure can spring the trapdoor which leads directly into non-league football and obscurity, possibly extinction.
Chairman Tony Stewart and his fellow directors have shown great determination and no little courage in picking up the pieces from the previous regime and revitalising the club in a temporary home at Sheffield’s Don Valley stadium.
Key to that rebuilding is relocation back in Rotherham, not at Millmoor, but in a new stadium on the Guest and Chrimes site southern gateway to Rotherham.
It needs to be not only a self-sufficient, multi-purpose football stadium, but an iconic symbol of the regeneration of Rotherham—a harbinger of better times round the corner.
The cost of £17.3 million will hardly buy a Premiership footballer in today’s highly-inflated transfer market, but it is more money than Mr Stewart and his fellow directors have been able to amass to bring the Millers home.
As a result, Rotherham Borough Council has agreed to help out by providing a five-year loan of £5 million to enable work on the stadium to proceed, leaving the club £2.3 million short.
In these days of cutbacks in the public and private sector, redundancies, wage freezes and cuts in services, the local authority will, quite rightly, be challenged on the wisdom of bank-rolling a football stadium which will be the home of a private enterprise.
But as the likes of Scunthorpe, Huddersfield, Doncaster and more recently Chesterfield have found, a new stadium can be the springboard for investment which can help rebuild the fragile local economy and—if you’re really lucky—the catalyst for a more successful football team.
Key to the enterprise’s success is commercial activity in and around the stadium.
At the same time Rotherham Rugby Union Football Club are poised to complete a deal to take the Titans back to Millmoor where they last enjoyed Premiership rugby in 2004.
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For the Titans to avoid the potential of a repeat of missing out on promotion to the top flight as they did in 2002, they must move from Clifton Lane to a more suitable stadium and Millmoor currently offers the only realistic alternative.
The borough council has worked with the current owners of Millmoor, the Booth family, to come to an agreement whereby the ground can be leased to the Titans and renovation work can begin to enable a return early into next season.
The borough council’s involvement is key to the retention and progression of professional football and rugby in Rotherham, but council leaders—and the public—will have to wait in order to judge whether the financial implications of that involvement can be justified.
Titans get Millmoor go-ahead.