Northwich Victoria leaves sold ground 'peacefully'

Fans at the ground
Image caption Fans of Northwich Victoria campaigned against the eviction at the ground on Thursday morning

Northwich Victoria Football Club has left its stadium "peacefully" following the passing of an eviction deadline.

The non-league club left the Victoria Ground at 17:00 GMT on Thursday, following its sale to chemical manufacturer Thor Group.

Northwich chairman Jim Rushe said the team had left "peacefully, but have not given up any of our rights".

"We're going to court to try and win a reprieve and get ourselves back in," he said.

He said if a reprieve was not granted, the club would "ground-share somewhere and keep fighting".

The club was issued with a notice to vacate on Monday following the ground's sale by receivers Deloitte.

Club solicitor Christopher Else said he had asked law firm Addleshaw Goddard, which is handling the sale, to extend the deadline while the club's legal status was considered.

He said the club's rights as a tenant had been overlooked during the sale.

The law firm declined to comment.

'Right to occupy'

The club's landlords, Northwich Victoria Developments Ltd (NVD), had been attempting to buy back the stadium from the receivers, who were acting on behalf of creditor Clydesdale Bank.

After a deal failed to be made, the ground was sold instead to the chemical manufacturer.

Mr Else said NVD, a separate company to the football club, signed a licence with the receivers in August, which allowed the eviction to take place with only three days' notice.

However, he said the club was "in occupation prior to that licence and we're trying to drive home that there was a relationship of landlord and tenant, protected under the 1954 [Landlord and Tenant] Act".

He said the club's representatives would discuss the situation with a specialist property barrister and efforts were being made to secure the club's place at the ground until the end of the season.

"The objective is to get the club the right to occupy the ground until the end of the season and then take stock of the position," he said.

"Then it's a case of sitting down with Thor and seeing what agreement can be reached [about the future], if any.

"It's a nine-acre site and it may well be that what Thor need to do can be done on another part of the site and not on top of the football ground."

'No option'

Deloitte has declined to comment on Mr Else's claims.

A spokesman for the receivers said on Wednesday it was "with some regret that we have come to this stage and it is clearly a time of great concern for the supporters of a club with a long history".

"However, after providing NVD with several years to find the required funding to acquire the stadium, this has not been forthcoming and so the principal chargeholder and their agents have been left with no option but to consider alternative offers for the site," he said.

The new owners declined to comment on their plans for the site.

Northwich, formed in 1874, play in the Northern Premier League.

The club sold its original ground, the Drill Field, in 2002 and, following three seasons ground-sharing with local rivals Witton Albion, moved to the Victoria Stadium in 2005.

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