‘We want to reconnect the club and its fans’ – Sheffield Wednesday supporters group launch bid to make Hillsborough an asset of community value
A group of passionate Sheffield Wednesday fans have launched a bid to ensure the club’s Hillsborough stadium remains a focal point and resource for its local community for generations to come.
The Sheffield Wednesday Supporters Trust (SWST), a group which was set up just under a year ago, want to make the historic ground an asset of community value (ACV), a status which would give it greater legal protection if any future owner wanted to sell it.
But the trust’s interim chair, James Silverwood, aged 35, from Stocksbridge, says he hoped it would also encourage the club to do more work with supporters as well, building on the ‘fantastic’ work of the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme to ensure fans are put at the very heart of the football club.
He said: “Sheffield is a huge football city and part of that is that traditionally and historically both football clubs have been rooted in the community. What we are trying to do is reconnect the club and its fans.
“What better way to do that than by making Hillsborough an asset of community value in law and by getting the club to do more in the community so everyone can benefit - not just on match days but during the week as well.”
Under the 2011 Localism Act, a building or other land can be an asset of community value (ACV) if its main use has recently been or is presently used to further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community and could do so in the future.
Many football stadiums around the country are now designated as assets of community value including Liverpool's Anfield ground and Manchester United’s Old Trafford home.
The status ensures such buildings remain a social hub for the community by making the ACV a material consideration in any future planning applications, and also enshrines a community right to bid for the asset or compulsory purchase by the local authority.
While James thinks that it is highly unlikely that Hillsborough would ever be bought by the community or compulsory purchased by Sheffield Council, he said the ACV status would ensure any future owner’s plans for the ground would be subject to greater transparency.
And he added that the recent rumours that the club might be taken over by Eric Alonso were another ‘timely reminder’ of why ACV status was so desperately needed.
He said: “Regardless of whether this is a valid takeover attempt or not, with ownership of the stadium already separated from that of the football club, its future needs to be secured.
“ACV is an important mechanism for providing transparency around ownership of the stadium and imposing accountability to decision-making.”
In a recent ballot of SWST members, the proposal attracted huge support with more than 95 per cent of those who voted saying they would support the change.
The trust added suggestions that the status would make the club a less attractive proposition for any billionaire owner were misplaced, saying that the legal protections would only come into effect if the use of the ground was changed.
To find out more about the Sheffield Wednesday Supporters’ Trust or the ACV bid, visit www.swfctrust.co.uk.