Part or all of Harrogate Railway Athletic’s Station View home will be sold to a property developer in an attempt to keep the club afloat.
Members voted unanimously (72:0) at Sunday’s extraordinary general meeting in favour of backing a proposal by chairman Rob Northfield that he hopes will safeguard the NCEL Premier Division outfit’s future.
“The cupboard is bare, and although we have no debt, there is no money left in the bank and the club will not survive in the short term unless we act now,” Northfield said.
“In business, when you have no money, you have to look at realising your assets and the land that we own here is our biggest asset. Thus we are planning to sell either half or all of it to a property developer.”
Having realised the precarious financial position that the club is headed for when he returned to Starbeck in the role of chairman last year, Northfield has spent recent months consulting with developers, Harrogate Borough Council and Sport England.
His proposal to sell off the club’s land was approved unanimously by their 13-man committee before being put to a members’ vote on Sunday evening.
“I don’t think that everybody involved at Harrogate Railway necessarily likes me, but I presented my plans for the future and everybody who voted, voted in favour of them,” Northfield added.
“To get a unanimous result when there is such a large number of people having their say is extremely rare, so I’m very happy.
“The plan here is just to try and ensure that the club survives and that the future will be better than the past. It seems that everyone is behind my proposal, and it doesn’t get much more pleasing than that.
“I’ve not just had support from within. I have consulted with Harrogate Borough Council and Sport England on this matter and both bodies understand our plight and have been very sympathetic.”
Northfield estimates that based on current market values, selling half of Railway’s land will raise in the region of £3million, while the whole site would fetch approximately double that amount.
The identity of the developer set to take the project forward will be revealed next week, and “every penny” of the funds raised from the sale of Station View will be re-invested in creating a “sustainable facility that benefits the local community”.
If only part of the land at Starbeck is sold, the Locomotives’ cash will be spent on improving the existing pitch and building additional indoor sports facilities.
Were the whole site to be purchased by a developer, then the club would have to relocate and start again from scratch.
“This is the best option for the club and it could see us end up with one of the best community football facilities in the whole country,” Northfield continued.
“What we want is a sports club that is sustainable in the long term and offers something for everybody, not just a football team.
“Personally, my first choice would be to start from scratch and create a purpose-built facility.
“In my experience, building a house from new is often easier than renovating an existing structure. However, in order to maintain the heritage of the club, we would have to look for a new site in the Starbeck area, which might prove difficult to find.”