STAGS boss Paul Cox and fans groups have today said Mansfield Town’s purchase of their Field Mill stadium will allow the club to move forward.
The deal, which finally brings to an end the controversial 19-year association of Keith Haslam with Mansfield Town, comes just hours before today’s (1st March) deadline for promotion-chasing Conference clubs to show that they either own their own ground or have a 10-year lease in place.
The ground will now be owned by John Radford Stadium Ltd with a clause in place meaning Field Mill cannot be used for anything other than for sporting purposes over the next 20 years.
The ground purchase also brings an end to the long-running saga over the future of Field Mill and brings to an end the threat of legal action over the ground’s ownership.
Boss Paul Cox said: “It is a positive step for the club. We can start planning now for the future. The ground issue has been hanging over the club’s head for a long time, but hopefully the fans will now come out in droves and help take this club forward.
“There are many ways that this club can improve and go forward. Having ownership of the ground will improve our mindset and that can only be a good thing, but I am mindful that we have a big game on Saturday and that is something we must focus on as a group of players.
Dean Foulkes, chairman of the Stags Supporters Association, said: “This is fantastic news for the club and finallty banishes the black cloud that has been hanging over the club.
“We now have a wonderful springboard to move the club forward and I hope everyone will get behind Mansfield Town and drive us towards our goal of promotion.”
Chris Vasper, former chairman of the Team Mansfield group, said removing Keith Haslam’s name from Mansfield Town Football Club was vital to any future success.
“Hopefully the community will now come out in force and get behind the club,” he said. “There are still people who have stayed away because of our connection with Keith Haslam.
“His name has been hanging over this club ever since he left. The amount of rent we have been paying was far too much.
“This will give Mansfield Town a massive lift and is the perfect springboard for us. In many ways it is like getting a new stadium, and that normally leads to clubs getting promotion.
“We are getting the wins on the field and are slowly getting there, this might be just what we need. This time next year we could be back in the Football League and owning our own ground like we used to be.
“In many ways the next two months are massive for the club. This is the closest we have been to get promoted back to the Football League and we need to grasp it.”
The disputed ownership of Field Mill and the legal battle went to court in February last year.
In a quick hearing at Mansfield County Court, the case was adjourned to Birmingham. Crucially, the two parties agreed a scenario that prevented any possible future lockouts - and brought a degree of stability off the field.
The agreement has seen the Stags pay £120,000 per season into a joint account in the names of the club and Mr Haslam’s solicitors - with the money not being released until ordered by the court or until the two parties reached agreement. Haslam also agreed not to prevent the club staying at Field Mill while the dispute was resolved.
The club revealed a ‘Plan B’ late last year and started work on the possibility of playing matches at Rainworth Welfare should they get promoted and not be able to play at Field Mill.