Fears for football club amid ground-sale plans

END OF THE ROAD? ... fears are growing that South Shields could be made homeless.
END OF THE ROAD? ... fears are growing that South Shields could be made homeless.

SOUTH Shields Football Club could be about to play its last match at its current home as talks over the club’s future continue.

John Rundle, 73, who leases the Filtrona Park venue to the Mariners, wants to sell up after more than 30 years’ involvement.

South Shields FC V Consett FC.

South Shields FC V Consett FC.

As things stand, the Northern League Division One fixture against Penrith on Saturday, April 28, could be the last time the side plays at its current base, which has been home since 1992.

Shields chairman Gary Crutwell said: “The future of the club is a bit uncertain, but it’s ongoing and we’re quietly confident that we will come up with a solution in the short-term and long-term.

“As far as the club is concerned, we’re still in negotiations with John for next season, as well as looking at other alternatives and options.

“We will have to wait and see what develops.

“There’s always a concern, but we have them every year.

“We appreciate that John wants to retire and sell the place, and at the minute we’re nowhere near buying it.

“We have asked John if we can stay at the club until he finds a buyer, and we’re still hopeful a solution can be found to the problem.”

Mr Rundle has met with interested parties about future of the venue.

One is believed to be an organisation involved in a different sport, but keen to work with the club to maintain soccer facilities.

Mr Rundle said the club has been aware of his desire to sell for four years and there was no animosity and an understanding of his position.

He said: “I want to walk away with a smile on my face knowing that the football club is still here.

“I’m trying my level best, behind the scenes, to keep the football going here.

“South Shields Football Club has been a big part of my life for more than 30 years, but the club knew I wanted out four years ago.

“I hope the club still has a home here when I walk away and that they are playing at Filtrona next season.

“It is possible though that it will be a vacant ground.

“I can’t promise there will be football here next season – what if someone wants to buy the ground, but doesn’t want the football club here?

“I can’t say how much the ground may sell for, but I am trying to help on the price.

“I can’t do this any more – if it was 10 years ago it may be different, but I’m 73 now and the time has come.

“There is no skulduggery going on here on my part and the club’s members are ok with what I am doing.

“Staff and players knew this day was coming.

“I bought the ground for the club to play here and that is still what I want to see happen.”

Mr Rundle, who was club chairman for 30 years and who bought the ground 20 years ago, stepped down as chairman four years ago but still retains day to day contact with the club as the licensee.

The ground has been on the market for five months but talks with potential buyers have only been entered into the past few weeks.

A covenant exists on the ground which stipulates it must remain a sports venue.

Twitter: @shieldsgazette