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Owner says Ludlow football stadium is to close

South Shropshire | News | Published:

Ludlow's football stadium is "finished" after talks failed to resolve a row over business rates, its owner has said.

Ludlow's football stadium

Matt Davies announced he intended to close Ludlow's Showtime Stadium last week, leaving senior and junior clubs without a home due to a wrangle over "extortionate" business rates.

Crises meetings were held between Mr Davies and Ludlow MP Philip Dunne and representatives from Shropshire Council, to try to suggest ways to lessen the sting of £1,200 a month in business rates at the ground.

But Mr Davies said the talks failed to resolve the issue.

He said: "It was a complete waste of time really. The whole argument is over the rates. We're saying they're too much. But they kept saying I have to talk to the Valuation Office and they weren't there."

Business rates are set centrally by HM Revenue and Customs' Valuation Office, not Shropshire Council, so officers could not negotiate bringing them down he said. The suggestion he run the business as a charity to get relief on the rates was "no help at all", he said, since he had put hundreds of thousands of pounds into the stadium and was not prepared to do that.

"As far as I am concerned the club is finished," said Mr Davies.

"The fate is sealed. There are 19 teams who use that ground, and it will basically destroy football in this area."

Mr Davies also held talks with the FA but said there is no suitable solution that would improve the situation.

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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.

Mr Dunne said: "I deeply regret AFC Ludlow's Showtime Stadium has decided to cease trading. It will be extremely challenging for Ludlow's football teams to participate in leagues next season unless access to these facilities can be secured for the next 12 months while a longer term solution is found."

Mr Davies, who runs Showtime Security Ltd in Craven Arms, was the head of a consortium that bought the ground on Bromfield Road for an undisclosed sum after Ludlow Town Football Club went into receivership in 2012.

AFC Ludlow, which was created after the demise of Ludlow Town FC, will be holding emergency talks about the club's future on Monday.

Mark Sutton, chairman of Onny Juniors, who are based at the ground, said the closure would be a "disaster for football in south Shropshire."

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