Stags fans bemused and confused over club’s backtracking on ground move

MANSFIELD Town supporters were left bemused and confused over the club’s future plans after a week of contradictory announcements from Field Mill.

The club are embroiled in legal action against former owner and landlord Haslam over the legality of his ownership of Field Mill, which was financially facilitated by a dividends issue to shareholders, and are hoping to regain the ground with 10-year lease on a ground of their own a condition of promotion.

However, current chairman and owner John Radford has always said he has a ‘Plan B’ up his sleeve, should he fail to win his legal challenge to Haslam’s ownership, and he appeared to finally unveil that plan as moving the club to a newly-built ground in Saturday’s match programme announcement.

But, before the end of the day, confusion reigned when he told Mansfield 103.2 that there had been a ‘miscommunication’ and by Tuesday the whole story was denied, leaving fans baffled to what Plan B might be.

Tuesday’s statement from Stags’ chief executive officer Carolyn Still would also have baffled officials at Rainworth Miners Welfare FC, who confirmed they had discussed with Stags about taking over and improving their Kirklington Road stadium.

After the programme announcement, Ms Still was due to meet the press before the game and, when she was delayed en route, was due to speak at half-time, but again failed to show.

Finally, she issued a statement yesterday, saying: “Thanks to all who came along on Saturday to support the club. We were up dramatically on gate numbers which is very encouraging.

“In turn, to demonstrate our full appreciation and commitment to our incredibly loyal supporters, we shall be announcing some very exciting news in the coming days that will further add to our campaign to regain our rightful position in the Football League.

“I must address the matter of the miscommunication and incongruence found in the notes of Saturday’s programme. The cause for this has been addressed and going forward I shall personally ensure that all messages sent out by the club are fully authenticated by the individuals concerned and are transparent and accurate.

“The announcement that MTFC shall move ‘to a newly-built stadium’ are misconstrued and inaccurate. The chairman and I both firmly believe that Field Mill is the home of MTFC and will vigorously continue to do everything possible to ensure that we are not forced out. Please accept our sincerest apologies and thank you for your ongoing support of the club.”

The Stags need a 10-year lease at a suitable ground by March to return to the Football League should they gain promotion on the pitch this season. They currently have a one-year lease to play at Field Mill.

Chad understood four different sites were being looked at. One is a possible ground share involving providing extra seats, turnstiles and improved floodlighting, among other improvements at Rainworth, which currently hosts Evo-Stik League Division One South football, where Stags would become the main ground owners.

A spokesman for Rainworth Welfare said: “There have been discussions with Mansfield Town and, in principle, there is an agreement that there could be a 10-year lease. But there is no official agreement and nothing has been decided.”

In his programme notes, Mr Radford had said: “Many of you are intrigued to know about the ‘Plan B’ which we have had in the pipeline, should we be unable to acquire Field Mill from the current landlord,” said Radford in his programme notes.

“I am now in a position to reveal that Plan B is a proposal for us to move to a newly-built stadium. Such proposals have now been drawn up which would allow us to be promoted at the end of the season.

“This, however, could all be immaterial, if we can buy Field Mill from Mr Haslam – which has always been my preferred option. Having stated that, we will not be held to ransom by anyone, and such back-up plans are essential.”

Mr Radford was unavailable for comment and Chad was unable to contact Mr Haslam.

However, Mansfield mayor Tony Egginton said: “I will continue to try to work in a positive way for the benefit of the supporters and keep football at the Mill.

“I think it is the right place to be, more so now with the improving transport links evolving.

“Everything is there in the town for the family, even if mum doesn’t want to go to the game she can go shopping while the rest of the family is at the Stags.

“I will continue to be a mediator if requested between John Radford and Keith Haslam to try to resolve this.

“It needs sorting out as we all want to see Mansfield Town FC back in the Football League and it would be nice to see the Stags in the play-offs this season at least.”

Good news for fans was that, should the club remain at Field Mill, home fans may get to return to their traditional North Stand home, used in recent seasons for visiting fans on police and Safety Group Advisory Committee advice, and the club have opened discussions about the move.