Former Port Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite has said he plans to sell Nuneaton Borough’s stadium, Liberty Way, in the next two months.
Smurthwaite purchased the stadium last year when Nuneaton were suffering financial difficulties but under Football Association rules he was only allowed to be the stadium owner as his ownership of Port Vale precluded him from taking charge at another club.
I sold Port Vale on May 8, I expected somebody at Nuneaton to say here’s the keys, go and sort it out, that hasn’t happened. So on that premise then, there’s no point in me holding onto the stadium…
The former Vale owner says he had three bids for the ground – from the football club, the nearby rugby club and an unnamed third party, which he admits he is “unsure” about and which could be developers.
Since leaving Port Vale, Smurthwaite has been linked with moves to buy Notts County, Bury and Bolton Wanderers. He told the Nottingham press that there were issues with him buying another club due to a “significant investment” which he still had in Port Vale. Port Vale owner Carol Shanahan then clarified that this was due to the cost of the Vale Park stadium being paid in installments over three years.
Smurthwaite told BBC CWR that he wants to recoup what he paid for the stadium telling them: “The amount I wish to recoup is what it cost me. I don’t think that it’s right to publicly announce that figure.
“I bought the stadium and pumped a lot of money into the club to save it at the time. Then, there was some silly games, and the FA then got involved and I had to walk away because of my ownership of Port Vale. Which is a shame really, but there we go. Then Jimmy took over.
“One of the three parties will end up buying the club. Two of them are extremely keen, well I suppose all three of them are keen but for different reasons, Jimmy wants security of tenure I think. He’s about 30% off what it owes me as we speak.
“The rugby club, they may need my assistance to give them some finance to buy it at the figure, and the third party, I understand, is just an outright cash purchase. I don’t understand what his motives are unless he’s behind one of the parties.”
Smurthwaite added: “I have enough speculation in my life about other football clubs without Nuneaton being dragged into it. There was part of me that would rather take ownership of the club now, I don’t think Jimmy is ready for that, and so on that basis I might as well relinquish the stadium as well because it just pays a nominal amount of rent, and let whichever party, the football club, the rugby club, or this other party, have it.
“I sold Port Vale on May 8, I expected somebody at Nuneaton to say here’s the keys, go and sort it out, that hasn’t happened. So on that premise then, there’s no point in me holding onto the stadium, I might as well sell it to whichever party ticks all the boxes and ticks the financial one.”
Nuneaton owner Jimmy Ginnelly commented: “We’ve got someone who is willing to buy it, we’ve just got to get it off Norman Smurthwaite. Norman has come to the table and agreed to sell it to us, hopefully that deal gets done in the next few weeks.”