On Monday 2nd November the Labour opposition party called an extraordinary meeting of the council to discuss the difficulties faced by the Northampton Town Football Club. This is the speech made by me as leader of the opposition.
“The saga of the loan to Northampton Town Football Club has been on a very sorry story. In 2013 this Council agreed to pay up to £12 million to Northampton Town Football Club for a new bigger improved stadium and development. I understand the loan agreement, which I have asked to see a copy, says the money MUST be used for this purpose and that there was a schedule which showed that the money could be drawn down in stages of the process. Such as 20% at the beginning, 20% after planning permission was granted and so on. Clearly this has not happened and we are now owed £10.25 million by Northampton Town Football. Why was so much money given to the football club without them sufficiently progressing with development? Where has our money gone? Why did the previous Leader of the Borough Council place so much trust in the owners of Northampton Town Football Club? This Borough Council can’t wait forever as we need to pay back the Public Works Loan Board at some future date. It is common knowledge when the money arrived at NTFC much of it was transferred to First Land Ltd, a company that has now been wound up. Did the Borough Council know the money would be transferred to First Land Ltd? The builders Buckinghams have been very patient but understandably want to be paid for the work they carry out.
This whole saga has lacked transparency and has been heavily criticized for its secrecy. In order to address the breakdown in trust I make two recommendations-
One- that in all future negotiations between the Borough Council, NTFC and Buckinghams there should be a representative of the Supporters Trust and a member of NTFC staff at the top table. The member staff of NTFC should be middle management or below who could report back to their colleagues. Having someone from Supporters Trust and a member of staff from NTFC in the negotiations would give reassurance to everyone.
And two -the Loan Agreement should now be immediately published to the general public.
Our main concern at this meeting however is the welfare of the Football Club and the well- being of the players and the supporters. Yes we want our money back but this is our club. It is an asset to our town. It is part of the cultural offer in the town. It is a part of who we are.
We need a plan to support the club. We need a plan that recognises how important the national game is to us locally. A plan that recognises that many of our young people, boys and girls, follow football and play football and look to the players for role models. It is our job to show solidarity with the Supporters in these difficult times.
The Labour Group motion called on the Borough to get our money back
It called on the Borough to support the club
It called on the Borough to ask the audit committee to investigate what went wrong.
It was passed.”