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Thursday, November 10, 2016

From The Archives: Supporters Meet Chelverton

Fifteen Years Ago today, Hereford United supporters met with property developers Chelverton in the Richmond Club.

With the club owing developers over £1M, there were concerns that the Edgar Street would be built on.

TODAY's meeting in Legends, which was very well attended, threw up plenty of points but little in the way of progress as supporters agreed to keep an open mind on the situation.

The meeting was well conducted by Kevin Wargen, the HUISA chairman, and the panel consisted of Bulls chairman Graham Turner, director George Hyde and Chelverton's Simon Morgan.

Events began with Simon Morgan outlining how Hereford United got into their current situation and where Chelverton fit into the equation. He asked supporters to agree with him, in principle, for a relocation of the club and that was the basis of the meeting.

Chelverton recently took over the BS Group's holding in the Edgar Street development at a rate 'above book value'. The result is that now there are just three major parties - Herefordshire Council, Chelverton and Hereford United.

There was a lack of solid proposals from Mr. Morgan, but plenty of ifs and buts. Chelverton wanted the support of the supporters and it appeared that there were two sides to the argument. Chelverton wants relocation, the council wants Hereford United to stay in Edgar Street. Council leader Terry James declined an invitation to attend the meeting because he didn't want to be involved in an inevitable slanging match. Instead, James met HUISA on Thursday night to put his point across which Kevin Wargen outlined later.

Simon Morgan said in his plea for support that there was no commitment for any scheme which may arise from it, but he wanted to have the supporters behind him when he meets council chief executive Neil Pringle next week.

The club may, in the future, require further finance and Chelverton would be reluctant to give it. Morgan said that even the bank wouldn't extend the club's overdraft and that it was only down to them and the BS Group that it was still in operation. The club are paying no rent on the ground (it is being paid by Chelverton) and their off-field income is basically nil. This is a situation that must be addressed in the future.

The Chelverton plan is a development including the cattle market, the football ground, Baylis garage and other buildings. Morgan claimed that a supermarket could raise several million pounds if it moved there, but Terry James has already questioned that idea.

Morgan failed to name any possible redevelopment locations for the club in the future and went as far as saying that if someone offered Chelverton their money in Hereford United, they may return the leases and leave. The frustration must have got to the BS Group and they left, and it now appears that Chelverton wished they had done the same!

Progress needs to be made now if Hereford United are to continue after May 2003 and Morgan claimed that the relocation is the only way that the club will continue. His initial aim is to bring the Herefordshire Council round to his way of thinking. However, if the club does not follow his plan, he said that it will fail before or in May 2003.

It appears that all Hereford United directors have to support proposals from Chelverton and George Hyde said that whilst he would rather remain at Edgar Street, he could see that the way forward for the Bulls was to move away into modernised facilities. Graham Turner supported Hyde's view.

There followed a period of questioning to Simon Morgan where queries were asked about whether the finances stacked up and whether the Chelverton plan was the only option. One particular point that arose was on the so-called 'Jackson' bequest, which originally allowed the council to purchase the Edgar Street site (for sporting purposes along with several others in the 1920s) and one person asked could the land use be changed. Terry James has already said that the clause could mean it should stay at Edgar Street, whilst Simon Morgan felt that it could be applied to another site.

There was discussion about whether a supermarket would locate in Edgar Street. One point was that as a new Asda was likely to be sited in Belmont, there was little reason why the council would want another supermarket. The council want to keep the centre of the city alive so would not want Tesco to move from their existing site, except maybe onto the cattle market.

After further discussion, chairman Kevin Wargen, who had remained impartial throughout, asked the panel to leave whilst supporters discussed the issue further. In the main, the points above were discussed again.

Wargen told the audience that he (and HUISA) didn't want supporters to give Simon Morgan a mandate at this stage as Chelverton had not come up with firm enough proposals. He said: "HUISA are totally at odds with the board of directors over this issue. We do not believe for one minute that we should give Simon Morgan the licence from the supporters to go to Neil Pringle next week (he has already made an appointment) and say he has the support of the supporters. He has given you nothing this morning and I fully accept that Terry James hasn't given us anything either and we, this week, have burned the candles at both ends.

"I don't believe that you should give Simon Morgan the mandate this morning to go to Neil Pringle and say the supporters are backing him," he continued.

In a show of hands, an overwhelming majority of the audience agreed with Wargen and Simon Morgan will be invited back in a month or so time so he can present more detailed proposals, in particular, the financial implications of his scheme.