Nottingham Forest set to stay at City Ground - council

Inside an empty City Ground
Nottingham City Council had proposed increasing the club's rent to £1m a year [Reuters]

Nottingham Forest look set to stay at the City Ground after Nottingham City Council agreed to sell the stadium’s land to the club, ending months of stalemate on its future.

The new land deal includes conditions to ensure the club stays at the stadium “for a long time to come”, the council says.

It has been agreed by the two parties but not yet officially signed.

The ground, on the banks of the River Trent, sits on land owned by the council, which is leased to the club on a long-term agreement.

The current lease has 33 years to run but talks on a new lease between the club and the council broke down earlier this year, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

A fresh agreement is seen as critical for the club’s exisiting plans to redevelop the stadium, which would expand its capacity from 29,000 to 40,000 through the rebuilding of the Peter Taylor Stand and extension of the Bridgford Stand.

Negotiations collapsed after the council asked for a larger sum for the lease following Forest's promotion to the Premier League.

The authority was looking to increase rent from £250,000 to about £1m per year.

Alternatively, it offered to sell the freehold to the site to the club.

Talks between the council and the club had since been at an impasse, leading Forest to say they were considering a potential move to Toton in Nottinghamshire to create a new 50,000-capacity stadium.

However, on Monday, Neghat Khan, the new leader of the council, said a deal to sell the land to the club outright had been agreed in principle.

It will be subject to approval by the council's executive board at a meeting held in public on 16 July, meaning reports on the deal will be made public in the coming days.

"I'm pleased to announce we have agreed in principle the sale of the City Ground to Nottingham Forest, all subject to the exec board approval next Tuesday,” Ms Khan said.

“It’s a great deal for Forest supporters, for the club and also Nottingham taxpayers. It now means we can focus our resources on tackling other issues we have. But this is a great news story.”

Analysis

Hugh Casswell, BBC Nottingham political reporter

The relationship between council and club has been pretty frosty at times.

After negotiations over rent reached an impasse earlier this year, they spent months without talking to one another at all.

When Councillor Khan took over as leader she told me one of her first acts would be to “reach out” to the owner and chairman.

Just seven weeks later and it looks like a solution has been found.

It isn’t quite a done deal yet, but no-one at the council is expecting anything to go wrong.

Over to Forest.

Neghat Khan
Neghat Khan announced the development on Monday [BBC]

Forest first announced plans to expand the stadium, the club’s home since 1898, back in 2019.

However, a new land deal ultimately did not progress because the city council decided the amount did not meet its obligation to ensure it was getting best value for taxpayers’ money.

The council then declared effective bankruptcy in November last year amid a multimillion-pound budget deficit, and government commissioners were appointed in February to oversee critical improvements over how the council operates.

Commissioners will now be ensuring the council achieves the best value in all areas of its operations.

The sale of the City Ground land freehold has been approved by the commissioners, and has undergone independent valuation.

The exact sale price of the land is not being disclosed, however, the authority says it will bring in a “significant capital receipt”.

Confidential discussions

Nottingham Forest said: "For absolutely clarity, we continue to work on the terms for a conditional deal for the purchase of the freehold.

"Any decision to purchase the freehold will be entirely conditional on Nottingham Forest first being granted the relevant permissions that will allow us to realise our hugely ambitious plans for a significantly larger stadium capacity, world-class hospitality spaces and associated substantial real estate development in the vicinity of the ground.

"Our discussions remain confidential and the club will update fans when meaningful progress has been achieved."

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