WOOTTON BASSETT Town FC will groundshare at Cirencester Town’s Corinium Stadium from the beginning of the 2013/14 season after agreeing a two-year deal with Town chairman Steve Abbley.
Wootton Bassett are looking for a temporary base after selling their Rylands Way site for housing to Persimmon Homes.
A new super hub for a variety of Wootton Bassett sports clubs is being developed at nearby Ballards Ash just south of the M4.
Royal Wootton Bassett RFC, who sold their Stoneover Lane ground to Taylor Wimpey, have already moved and the football, cricket and tennis clubs will use land opposite the rugby facility at Ballards Ash, bringing the entire site up to approximately 40 acres.
Wootton Bassett Town FC expect work to start on their new ground at the end of the current season.
For Abbley, the arrangement will provide a welcome injection of cash to be ploughed straight into two capital projects – an extension to the club’s Barbican Suite and the fitting of a new environmentally friendly boiler and heating system.
Cirencester Town previously played landlord to Gloucester City but that groundshare deal came to end because the Corinium Stadium did not meet the grading required for the Tigers’ elevation to Blue Square North. Gloucester City now groundshare with Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road but are finding the £40,000 a year rent crippling.
“We have been talking to Wootton Bassett since last summer but have only just signed the deal,” said Abbley.
“Their Persimmon deal was done five years ago but had been put on hold due to the financial climate and has only recently been resurrected.
“We have signed a two-year agreement, although Wootton Bassett are hoping to move into their new home around Christmas 2014.
“They will play at least a season and a half at the Corinium and that includes all their pre-season games.
“A confidentiality agreement prevents me from revealing how much rent we are getting but it is a chunky sum and more than Gloucester City used to pay us.”
While Wootton Bassett look odds-on to be promoted to the Hellenic Premier this campaign – they are currently in second place behind Brimscombe & Thrupp – Cirencester Town may have a promotion push of their own after four consecutive wins has kick-started their season and left them in seventh place in the Evo-Stik Southern League Div 1 South & West.
“We have an outside chance of getting in the play-offs but if that does not come off it is our stated aim to push for promotion next season,” said Abbley.
“Brian (Hughes) has done a fantastic job rebuilding the side on a reduced budget, bringing in the likes of Leigh Henry, Glyn Garner and Shane Anson, who have all been fantastic signings, and we now have the core of a very good side.
“At a club meeting in the close season, we agreed we had to cut costs, reduce expenditure and increase income.
“When our entertaining marquee blew away, we lost a major revenue stream and we needed to find a permanent solution.
“Extending our Barbican Suite by half as much again at a cost of between £30,000 and £40,000 would solve that.
“Our electricity and oil bills are huge and so we are going to put in a pellet boiler and make our heating system much more efficient and carbon friendly at a cost of between £40,000 and £50,000.
“Preliminary talks with the Football Foundation lead us to believe that the overall project would be in line for a 50% grant.”
One downside of the Wootton Bassett deal is that Ciren’s successful Development Team will no longer be able to play regularly on the Corinium Stadium pitch.
“I have talked to Clive Messenger, the Development Team manager, and explained that it is only for 18 months,” said Abbley.
“To make a bitter pill easier to swallow, his team will continue to play their floodlit games on the first team pitch.
“We will also try to play their games on the same day as the first team to foster more togetherness.”
The Wootton Bassett windfall will not automatically lead to an increase in Hughes’ playing budget, according to his chairman.
“We will have to see how expensive the two projects prove to be,” he said.
“There will inevitably be the usual horse trading between Brian and myself, so will just have to wait and see.”