'Ludicrous' - Merseyside football clubs end groundshare after bitter dispute
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Two semi-professional football clubs in Merseyside are in bitter dispute after a groundshare agreement was terminated this week.
Bootle Football Club announced it had ended an accord with City of Liverpool FC (CoL) with immediate effect due what it called a 'material breach' of the agreement. The groundshare terms allowed CoL to play its fixtures at the Berry Street Garage Stadium, owned by Bootle FC.
In a statement, Bootle said after the breach and 'despite opportunities to rectify other identified breaches' the trustees of the club had taken the decision to terminate the agreement.
The statement added: "The trustees and the club would like to extend sympathy to all supporters, volunteers and players affected by this. However primarily, we must always protect the interests of Bootle Football Club, its committee, members, players, staff and most importantly the fans."
A statement by CoL said the club refutes what it called the "ludicrous allegation" of the breach and said that a total of £65.42 had accrued due to a clause in the agreement, but said it had made payments totalling £13,500 (plus VAT) to date this season as per the ground-share agreement.
CoL said: "We are now in the position of having paid for games that Bootle FC will now not allow us to stage at Bootle FC in Season 23/24.
"Any right minded non-league football supporter will recognise the gross injustice of the actions of Bootle FC in preventing our club from seeing out its season, and the crocodile tears in their statement are abhorrent.
"Since we were made aware of this action by Bootle FC we have repeatedly made ourselves available to take part in the mediation process offered by the NPL, but in the absence of such commitment from anyone at Bootle FC and a NPL deadline looming last Thursday dinnertime, we made the choice to hire the DCBL stadium to host our match v Prescot Cables."
The Northern Premier League, where both teams play, said it became aware of a dispute between the two clubs 24 hours before a scheduled game on Saturday, January 20. The league said it immediately offered to mediate between the two parties but was 'disappointed that this offer was not taken up.
A statement added: "Ultimately, however, this is a dispute between landlord and tenant in which the NPL has no powers to intervene. Our overriding responsibility is to the integrity of the competition and to ensuring that all fixtures remaining are fulfilled. The League will continue to work with City of Liverpool FC to ensure the club completes the 2023/24 season.
"In accordance with FA rules, City of Liverpool FC has until 31st March 2024 to provide a compliant Groundshare Agreement with another club with the necessary grade to maintain its place at Step 4 of the National League System."