Falkirk Stadium transfer to council ownership

Falkirk Community Stadium Limited – the arms-length company that helped to build Falkirk FC’s home – will finally transfer legally to the ownership of the council, councillors have agreed.

By Kirsty Paterson
Monday, 6th December 2021, 9:57 am
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 1:09 pm
Falkirk stadium.
Falkirk stadium.

The change will have no impact on the football club and employees will transfer to Falkirk Council as part of the process, members of the executive heard on Tuesday.

Falkirk Community Stadium Limited (FCSL) was set up in partnership with Falkirk FC, when the Bairns were looking to move from their traditional Brockville home.

The new stadium was opened in 2004, but by 2009, the two parties agreed to separate their financial arrangements, leaving the club to look after the football side of the business.

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That left FCSL with assets in place of the money it had loaned – and with the possibility of a hefty tax bill if these were transferred to the council.

However, the most recent report assured members that any transfer of assets will not trigger any liabilities, leaving them free to start the legal process now.

Councillors agreed that the change was long overdue.

But councillor Joan Coombes suggested that the council’s share of the stadium is not exactly an asset.

The report to the executive shows that more than £2 million of the original debt is still being repaid – and it reveals that the costs of maintenance in the future is expected to be more than £2 million over the next 30 years.

Next year, council staff are expected to move to a large suite of offices in the West Stand, as part of the local authority’s move from the Municipal Buildings which are facing demolition.

The relocation to the new offices will coincide with the winding-up of Falkirk Community Trust and the hope is that the new management structure will be more simplified.

Officers believe that taking their share of the stadium into full council ownership will allow them to plan repair work better.

The conference and catering part of FCSL – which has consistently made a profit in recent years – is expected to continue, with staff transferring to the council.

Other changes could be on the horizon though, with the long-promised development of Falkirk Gateway – a mixture of retail, hotels and housing -which will be just across the road.

Recently, the UK Government gave a £20 million grant to improve the roads around the Gateway site, which will include an aerial crossing over the busy roads surrounding the stadium.

It is hoped that once again that could spark interest in developing the site further.

In recent years, the council has been criticised by auditors for the arrangement which sees senior council and Community Trust staff sit on the board of directors – and that conflict of interests will now end.

Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council, said the new arrangements would be more streamlined.

She said: “There are liabilities around the condition of the building and bringing it back into the council’s ownership and management means we can manage that in our capital programme.”

“The very close working relationship with Falkirk Football Club will continue – it has worked very successfully and we would want that to continue.”