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Council pledges support for Torquay United

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 15:41

By Guy Henderson - Local Democracy Reporter @GuyAHenderson

Plainmoor - home of Torquay United (Picture courtesy: Guy Henderson)

'We can be an anchor in stormy waters'

Torbay Council plans to be ‘an anchor in stormy waters’ for trouble-hit Torquay United.

Councillors from parties across the chamber are to meet to discuss the future of the football club.

The Gulls’s Plainmoor ground is owned by the council and leased to the club under and agreement which has nearly 60 years still to run.

Previous owner Clarke Osborne, who stood down last week, had wanted to build the club a new stadium away from Plainmoor. But the council had been adamant that Plainmoor itself is not for sale, and Mr Osborne would never be able to build homes on it.

In his parting statement, the former owner said his inability to move forward with his new stadium was a key factor in his decision to walk away after six years.

He had held meetings with the council in the run-up to his announcement.

The football club, which also parted company with team manager Gary Johnson ‘by mutual consent’ last week, is currently up for sale.

However, it has also announced its intention to appoint administrators, which would mean a points deduction for a team which is already making heavy weather of its season in National League South.

A statement from the club on Wednesday said there had been ‘a high volume of inquiries’.

The council’s Liberal Democrat group leader Steve Darling (Barton with Watcombe) is to meet his Conservative, Independent and Prosper Torbay counterparts to discuss the club’s future.

He said: “There is great uncertainty around Torquay United at the moment. It’s important that we talk about its long-term future.

“We need to develop a shared statement of intent that the freehold of Plainmoor is not for sale, and also talk about what else the local authority can be doing.

“We need to offer the club an anchor in stormy waters, and our door needs to be open to anyone who is coming forward to support the club. The local authority needs to be using its connections and seeing what opportunities there are to bring in that support for Torquay United.

“We need to come together with a powerful message.”

Council leader David Thomas (Con, Preston) told a meeting of the full council last week: “I want to reassure the club and its supporters that we will engage with any interested parties to understand how we might support the ongoing operation of the club.”

And he reassured people concerned that the club’s Plainmoor ground might be lost.

“The freehold of Plainmoor is held by the council, and we have long held a position that it remains with the council,” he said. “Nothing has changed. Our position is still exactly as it was.”

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