Sports Clubs – Investment should benefit local firms and people

Saints redevelopment is essential to future success
Saints redevelopment is essential to future success
Sports Clubs – Investment should benefit local firms and people
First published 794 days ago

When I met with both the Saints and Cobblers in May 2011 it was made very clear that following the Borough Council election both of the main political parties would do all that was necessary to support their ambitions after years of obstruction.

It has taken longer than I expected to achieve but I have no doubt that the loans of £12m to the Cobblers and £5m to the Saints for the redevelopment of Sixfields and Franklin Gardens is the right thing for the Borough Council to do.

As expected however I have already had numerous calls and messages from Northampton residents who are angry about the decision.

Interestingly the arguments are different, with complaints that the Cobblers are an organisation who lose money every year and so are unlikely ever to be able to pay it back, to, “why should we lend to the Saints who are successful and make a profit every year”.

The problem with the decision is that it simply hasn’t been explained in a way that the tax paying people of Northampton can understand and especially the difference between how the loan is being funded and the funding for essential front line services which have and are being cut.

It is a problem of communication which unfortunately is seeing a number of chickens coming home to roost.

It is the same failure of communication that took place under the Liberal Democrat administration over the funding for the Market Square lights, Town Centre fountain and the Beckett’s Park Marina a failure of communication that all opposition parties used against them time and time again.

Of course the loans are being underwritten by the tax payer but what we don’t know is on what terms.

If the loans are going to be repaid at one, two or even three per cent above the current bank rate of 0.5% it will make good business sense as well as securing the long-term stability of two of the town’s senior professional clubs.

Redevelopment of Sixfields should provide jobs for local people
Redevelopment of Sixfields should provide jobs for local people
There should of course be a number of strings attached to the loans, the first being that because there is considerable construction involved in both redevelopment plans the work should go to local firms employing local people both in the supply chain of materials and the construction work itself.

Contracts should only be awarded to companies who have a proven record or are prepared to take on young people and provide them with the high level training that will provide them with the skills to ensure future employability.

I’m also as I have written about before a strong advocate that employees should be guaranteed the Living Wage and would argue that companies employed in delivering the redevelopment of the stadiums should pay at a minimum the living wage as part of the loan agreement.

The whole issue has to be considered in a wider context than the narrow interest of the few.

Using local companies, employing local people and paying the living wage will not only benefit the individuals and the families of those employed but will increase the economic spending in Northampton.

They used to say during the period of apartheid in South Africa that sport and politics shouldn’t be mixed; the facts are that in the case of the political decision to provide loans to our sports clubs it is being mixed and the social impact, given the will of everyone involved can be of even greater benefit to the town.

It also demonstrates that if the Government as I have argued consistently really want to encourage economic growth across the country then they should be investing through an ‘Investment Bank’ in infrastructure and housing and not printing money solely for the purpose of keeping interest rates low and lining rich people’s pockets.

If Northampton with what in national economic terms is a paltry £50m in the bank earning next to nothing in interest can finance loans then why not the treasury?

This is good news for the town’s sports clubs but I can’t finish without recognising the role of Lee Mason who as the leader of the Labour Group committed herself and her group to supporting the sports clubs ambitions when it would have been easy for her to use it as a political issue.

We should also recognise the patience and commitment of the respective owners, Keith Barwell and David Cardoza, who have worked hard to deliver their ambitions.

All of them have demonstrated courage and foresight, now it is for the Cobblers and Saints to deliver both on and off of the field.