Latest Public Sector News

06.09.18

‘Bring it on’: Shropshire takes football club to court over unpaid £80,000 grant row

Shropshire Council has launched legal action against a football club in a bid to recover a £80,000 payment made six years ago which has been left largely unpaid.

The local authority gave The New Saints (TNS) FC the money “on the understanding that it would be repaid,” but so far only £10,000 has been received.

While the council did admit earlier this year that it made mistakes in tracing the repayments, TNS argued the funds were not to be repaid as they were not a loan.

Club owner Mike Harris took to Twitter in July to call for “certain employees of the council” to be suspended and investigation for incompetence, and argued that “by definition a grant is a grant, and not repayable if its terms are met.”

Earlier this year, the council said that one condition of the funding agreement is that TNS was required to deliver a grant of £16,000 each year, over a five-year period. “Although this has happened in part, the onward grant payments have not yet been made in full and therefore TNS’s compliance with the terms of the grant is in dispute,” the statement explained.

According to the council’s audit report, the football club has only made two repayments: of £4,000 in July 2015, and £6,000 in November of the same year. The document also said it was “unclear why the funds were not recovered earlier.”

The £80,000 payment was used to finance a 500-seat stand at the FC’s Park Hall Stadium so it could play European matches. It came from the council’s Market Town Revitalisation Programme, a £3.5m cash pot designed to support countywide economic growth.

Shropshire has now decided to launch legal action, with Claire Porter, head of legal and democratic services at the local authority, saying: “We have commenced court proceedings, and we are therefore unable to make any further comment during the course of the litigation.”

In response, Harris and told council CEO Clive Wright that if he wants to sue, then “bring it on.”


“Ultimately we have paid back the money, albeit in a different way, and can demonstrate that – even though we did not have to,” he told local press.

“The council has dug itself into a big hole and has kept on digging. Its own audit shows there has been no fraud, just bad practice. It has tried to blame predecessors. I don’t think the chief executive has a true appreciation of what has happened.

“The council knows payments were voluntary. It told its staff to make the agreement voluntary. It’s quite clear. It stinks of incompetence by the council and it trying to blacken our name to hide behind its own failings.”

(Top image c. Mike White)

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