£1 lease for home of the Steelmen agreed
Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter
Councillors have agreed to a 35 year lease of iconic rugby pitches and a clubhouse for £1 in the face of “difficult” financial times for the club.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council on Thursday, January 25 councillors were told that on this matter they would be acting as the trustees of Eugene Cross Park in Ebbw Vale’s Grounds and Institute.
The proposal was to lease the clubhouse, changing rooms, stand and three rugby pitches one a 35 year lease to Eugene Cross Park Sports Limited.
£1.063 million maintenance
Eugene Park is the home of Ebbw Vale rugby football club, and they are currently enjoying a good season and are second in the Welsh Premiership table.
Documents on the proposal included a valuation on Eugene Cross Park from the Valuation Office Agency,
This reveals that over a 35 year period the council have made a projected £138,000 from rent.
However, maintenance costs for the period were predicted to be £1.063 million.
The valuers said: “I am of the opinion that the market value for the leasehold interest of the property is £1.”
Council leader, Labour’s Cllr Steve Thomas said: “It allows the club to access funding in these difficult times which they currently can’t do.
Deputy leader of the Independent group Cllr Wayne Hodgins said that there had been a “lot of rumours” surrounding the club’s “aspiration and that a multi-million pound development in the offing.
Cllr Hodgins said: “The stadium has been renamed on three different occasions this will get them on a firm footing, and it does need some upgrading in various areas.”
“Sorry state of affairs”
Cllr David Wilkshire asked whether a business plan had been submitted to the council.
Team manager for estates and strategic asset management, Louise Horner confirmed that a “full business case” had been received.
Ms Horner said: “We’ve been working with the organisation for a long time to ensure that they adhere to the objectives of the charity, which is as a recreation ground.
“We’ve helped them strengthen their board so that they are not sport specific as in just rugby but encompass all sports and the community in running the facility.”
Cllr Malcom Cross said: “Welsh rugby is in an overall sorry state of affairs at present.
“It’s great to see Ebbw Vale with their long tradition of providing a lot of international players in years gone by, doing a lot with youth.
“But it’s not just the rugby, they continue with the cricket and other sports there.
“If it is going to be a hub for development, we should back them 100 per cent.”
He pointed out that many junior rugby clubs are “falling by the wayside” and it would give the county borough youngsters: “aspiration to become professional rugby players.”
Councillors voted unanimously to agree the lease.
Known as “The Steelmen” Ebbw Vale was one of the top clubs the whole of Wales and produced many international rugby players – before the advent of regional rugby.
Notable former Welsh internationals who played for the club include Mark Jones, Richie Collins, Kingsley Jones, Allan Bateman and Byron Hayward.
Grand Slam winning Wales coach, Mike Ruddock has also coached Ebbw Vale.
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