A historic document that states that the former home of Basingstoke Town Football Club must remain as a sports facility until 2053 has been unearthed by the Gazette.
For years, the public and the press have been told that the covenant put in place by Lord Camrose to protect the Camrose ground had been ‘lost’ or in some cases ‘didn’t exist’.
However this week, this newspaper can exclusively reveal the covenant is very much still in existence.
In papers obtained by the Gazette, the covenant can be clearly viewed on the Land Registry paperwork which states the Winchester Road site must remain as a football ground.
In the document, signed in 1953 by Lord William Berry, Viscount Camrose, it states:
n No buildings or erection shall be planned or allowed on the land which is a Football or Sports Ground.
n Not to erect or permit to be erected on the said land any buildings with out the written consent of the lessors and the tenants can only erect building connected with purpose already mentioned above.
n Not to carry on or permit to be carried on any trade or business upon the said land only to use or allow to permit the same to be used in a proper and orderly manner as a Football or Sports Ground which is purpose of this lease.
n Not to do or permit any act or thing which causes or may grow to cause annoyance inconvenience nuisance of any neighbouring property.
n Driving cattle, sheep and other animals cannot be done on the land which is marked out as a football pitch.
The agreement between Lord Camrose and the then owners of Basingstoke Town Football Club says that the land, “laid out for the playing of football”, must be a “football or sports ground” throughout the period of the covenant, with “no buildings or erection … placed or allowed to remain on the land.”
It continues to say that no business should be allowed on the land other than a football ground.
However, after Basingstoke Town Football Club owner Rafi Razzak’s company Centerprise purchased the freehold to the ground in 2016, there is now a dispute about whether the covenant still applies.
Tim Crarer, senior partner at law firm Parker Bullen, said that it was “quite a complicated situation”.
He says that there are a few methods how covenants can be attacked, by deeming it obsolete if it has not been enforced, by deeming it no longer appropriate, and if it has already been released by the owner.
As Mr Razzak now owns the football club and the ground, he is landlord and tenant, and on both sides of the covenant, says Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s deputy leader Simon Bound.
Cllr Bound told the Gazette: “There was a covenant between Lord Camrose and the football club.
“I have asked this point over and over again to the football club, they have sought legal advice that it doesn’t stand.”
He says that regardless of whether it is valid or not, it will likely not be enforced by Mr Razzak.
Cllr Bound added that a board member of the community club told fans at a meeting he attended around 18 months ago to “forget the covenant”, saying it will not protect football at the Camrose.
The covenant has been thought of as potential ammunition that could see the town’s club return to its historic home.
This has led to the community club’s director, Kevin White, to say he was “shocked” that the covenant has been found and could still be valid.
“When Rafi purchased it, he removed it without anybody knowing. My understanding is that the land was sold with the intention that the covenant remained.
“If it is still valid then it makes the situation worse and even more callous really.
“I am quite shocked that if it says it is still valid. I can only assume that they can do what they want with the covenant.”
As previously reported, the pitch at the former home of the town’s club was ripped up last month, with owner Rafi Razzak saying he wasn’t aware that it was taking place.
He has submitted plans that would see retail units built on the site, and told the Gazette that the grass was being re-seeded.
However, Mr Razzak has called debate over the covenant “ridiculous”.
He said: “It has saddened me that it has come to this after 22 years at the football club. What would I gain with that support for 20 years?
“The money I put down was to help the club to build a stadium at National League standard.
“I did it for the right reasons for the football club and the community, like everything else I have done.
“There is not future at the Camrose. The club needed £100,000 a year to continue to play at the Camrose which I funded myself for 20 years. I have had enough of funding the club.”
Basingstoke Community Football Club has been playing their games this season at Winchester City, as they wait for their new home at Winklebury to be brought up to league standard.
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