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Ludlow football ground could close in rates row

South Shropshire | News | Published:

Ludlow's football stadium is under threat of closure - potentially leaving senior and junior teams without a home.

Ludlow's football stadium

The owner of the Showtime Stadium has said he is considering closing the stadium because he cannot afford the "extortionate" business rates.

Crisis talks were being held behind closed doors last night to discuss the future of the ground, amid fears its closure would be a "disaster for football in south Shropshire".

Matt Davies, who took over the ground on Bromfield Road after Ludlow Town Football Club went into receivership in 2012, said the ground had also been hit with £350 penalty charges for problems paying the rates. But he said he had no intention of selling the site.

He said: "I'm intending to close the club - that's the long and short of it. We're not in debt to anyone but the business rates are £1,200."

The stadium is home to phoenix club AFC Ludlow, who play in the West Midlands Regional League, and a number of community and junior teams.

AFC Ludlow pay about £80 to £90 to use the ground per game but struggle to afford that, according to Mr Davies, and could not afford to train there.

Onny Juniors and Ludlow Town FC Juniors also pay to use the ground, but with the high business rates it did not cover costs, he said.

"We have an income of about £1,100 a month," Mr Davies said.

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Mr Davies, who runs Showtime Security Ltd in Craven Arms, was the head of a consortium which bought the ground for an undisclosed sum, lifting a historical covenant that meant a range of clubs could now use its £2 million facilities, which includes a state of the art full size 3G artificial pitch. Last year he said he hoped to turn the stadium into a "thriving sporting facility".

"When I took over, the consortium paid an awful lot of money to take on the covenent with no support or help from the council," he said. "I've been putting the best part of £1,800 a month into it for the last two years.

Mark Sutton, chairman of Onny Juniors and under 16 coach said: "The Showtime Stadium is our home. It would be a disaster for all football in south Shropshire if it shut.

"There are about 200 kids playing from the stadium, between Ludlow Juniors and Onny Juniors, and there's the women's team and the senior team - where are all these people going to play their football?

"It beggars belief that we've got the great facility and the doors could be closed."

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