Calls for more scrutiny over Gateshead FC play-off rejection

Liberal Democrat councillors have asked for more investigation of council officials’ involvement in the situation that resulted in Gateshead FC’s exclusion from the National League play-offs.

The Heed were denied promotion to the English Football League (EFL) at the end of previous season due to uncertainties about the future of their home venue, Gateshead International Stadium.

On Monday, opposition councillors in the town requested a new report outlining contact between the Labour-run local authority, the National League, the EFL, and the club.

Gateshead’s Lib Dem leader, Coun Ron Beadle, stated during an overview and scrutiny committee meeting that he wanted to see a report by October this year to determine whether there were any prospects for a “better outcome” for Gateshead FC.
It comes after Labour councillors voted down a plan last month to make the Heed’s 10-year tenancy a contractual obligation for any future operator, which council leader Martin Gannon called “ridiculous” and warned would result in legal action.

Coun Beadle stated, “When we debated this at the previous full council, the leader [Coun Gannon] stated that there was communication available for any individual member to review. We believe that a more formal overview is required rather than individual members taking a look, and this would provide the opportunity.

“At the very least, we should be having a look at the correspondence to see the timeline and if there was any opportunity to get a better outcome.”

In April, Heed supporters were startled to learn that their team will be barred from competing in the play-offs due to stadium concerns.

The club was unable to meet an EFL condition that aspiring members have a 10-year lease on their home field, as the municipality is now seeking an external operator for the facility as part of cost-cutting initiatives at the civic centre.

Council officials claim that the stadium is now operating at a deficit of more than £800,000 per year, which Coun Gannon described in May as a “unsustainable” figure for a local authority facing a £50 million deficit over the next five years.

However, he expressed hope that a charity or other entity exempt from paying the venue’s high business rates can be found to administer it, and that they will want to maintain the Heed in place.

Coun Gannon stated at the May council meeting, “We are optimistic that will happen. I have solicited feedback from officers, and I am informed that there are constructive negotiations, that we have partners who are interested, and that the football club’s future will be secured.

“I have to be as frank and honest with council members as I am with football team supporters. What would we do in the unusual event that we were unable to get an operator?

“Think about it: are you going to push us to sign a binding 10-year contract with the football team right now? And if we don’t find an operator, are you so confident in this council’s finances that you’re willing to commit to an £8.6 million deficit over the next ten years?”


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