BRISTOL Rovers says it is holding daily talks with legal representatives for Sainsbury’s over an agreement to sell its current ground.
The club has issued a statement following speculation that the supermarket chain could be about to pull out of plans to build a new store on the Memorial Ground in Horfield, an arrangement Rovers is relying on to fund its new stadium in South Gloucestershire.
Chairman Nick Higgs said this week: “As I stated at the recent supporters’ club AGM and on the fans forum, we have a contract in place with Sainsbury’s for the purchase of the Memorial Stadium site.
“There is daily dialogue between both sets of lawyers, and they are working to conclude the final contract conditions.
“Once these have been completed we will be able to move forward with our plans, and we hope to be able to make an announcement in the near future.”
Addressing fans directly, Mr Higgs added: “I understand that you are all extremely frustrated with the delays, but we all have to remain patient for a little while longer.”
Rovers need to sell the site to pay for a new 21,700-seater stadium on University of the West of England land at Stoke Gifford. The club has had planning permission for the facility, the first stadium ever to be built in South Gloucestershire which will also include offices, a supporters’ bar, media study centre, gym, convenience store, club shop, teaching space and a 1,000-space car park, for more than two years.
Sainsbury’s won planning permission for a new store in January 2013 but the plans were then the subject of a Judicial Review, following complaints from members of protest group TRASHorfield (Traders and Residents Against Sainsbury’s Horfield) that Bristol City Council had illegally given consent. The review was thrown out of court but the group has continued to scupper the plans by trying to list the Memorial Ground as a war memorial sparking fears public demand for the supermarket has waned.
Rovers has already revealed the delays have cost the club, which was relegated from the Conference League at the end of the season, £1.5million.
Last month Prime Minister David Cameron called on Sainsbury’s to deliver on the project to secure jobs, growth and regeneration in the area.
Responding to a question from Bristol North West MP and supporter of the scheme Charlotte Leslie in Westminster, Mr Cameron said: “I know that you’ll be delighted that the judge in question has dismissed the judicial review, so we can now hope that this paves the way for the supermarket and the stadium to be built.
“And I hope that Sainsbury’s will press ahead with that, so not only will this mean a new stadium for the Rovers, it will mean more jobs, more growth and better infrastructure for Bristol.”
Sainsbury’s has not commented on its intentions.