Manda Rigby: Bath City must leave Twerton Park to survive
Bath City chairman Manda Rigby has warned that the club will die unless they move away from their home of more than 80 years – and challenged her critics to either back her blueprint or come up with a viable alternative.
The Bath & North East Somerset councillor has come under fire from some quarters since succeeding Geoff Todd in August 2011 and taking on the thankless task of clearing the club’s mounting debts.
After pumping more than £140,000 of her own money into the coffers – as well as spending countless unpaid hours working behind the scenes – she admitted that the “poisonous negativity” of a small percentage of City’s followers had become “wearing” and says their actions are gambling with the club’s very future.
In a heartfelt and personal statement released yesterday, Rigby stressed that the club’s main asset, Mayday Trust Park, has become a huge drain on resources and that it is the intention of her board to either sell it or swap it for land elsewhere. She added that the club is in talks with four different landowners over potential sites for a new stadium and has attracted interest from more than 20 organisations with regard to developing its existing base in Twerton.
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“Let me dispel a myth and replace it with a fact,” she said. “Twerton Park is a net drain on our resources and will remain so for as long as we are here. By cutting expenditure to the bone and beyond and investing in any scheme which stacks up financially, at best we can mitigate the losses, but not make it sustainable. Sorry to be blunt, but if that was not the case then surely someone over the last 50 loss-making years would have cracked it?
“There is not some magical way that we can make income be greater than expenditure while we are at the ground, whatever level we play at. It is a lovely ground, full of history, but it not a good business proposition for any kind of outside investment for renovation.
“It is my view that we have to move. This is doubly urgent as, at the time I joined the board, they had done an incredibly good job in retaining assets where possible and buying the time necessary to get a repayment plan for all the loans which were due, but there hadn’t been a plan put forward to meet the club’s liabilities and drive it forward. So a change in approach, however painful, had to be attempted throughout the club. The trick will be in getting the best deal, one which will secure the future of Bath City for the foreseeable future.
“Be in no doubt – this is the plan and the clock is ticking. We will shortly be talking with all the major shareholders and will make it clear that we need either support on the ground move and/or an alternative investor found, most likely requiring sale of all shareholdings. Otherwise we do not see how the club will be able to pay its debts.
“I believe in Bath City. I want to make it successful and make it sustainable.”