Rochdale AFC given council loan to help the club survive during the coronavirus crisis

Date published: 20 May 2020


Rochdale AFC is to benefit from a council loan to help it survive the cancellation of football during the coronavirus crisis.

Games have not taken place in League One since mid-March, and clubs are currently deliberating over whether to continue the season in some form or cancel it altogether.

Smaller clubs, like Rochdale, have been hit particularly hard since large gatherings were banned, as they rely on matchday income far more than the giants of the Premier League.

According to official papers, the council has stepped in to help the club ride out lockdown – citing the importance of  sustaining ‘the borough’s sporting profile and heritage’ and enabling the club to ‘continue to contribute to wider community benefits’.

The council will not disclose the loan sum, which is repayable over a 12-month period, on the grounds of ‘commercial sensitivity’.

However, a restricted report issued by the authority says chiefs have approved ‘an initial loan to Denehurst Park Rochdale Limited, secured on its assets and guaranteed by Rochdale Association Football Club’.

Denehurst Park is the company that runs the club’s Crown Oil Arena ground and has the same board of directors – including Dale chairman Andrew Kilpatrick.

According to the report, council bosses agreed that ‘not making the loan would potentially place one of the borough’s most significant assets at risk at this difficult time’.

They have also made provision for a further loan on similar terms, depending on ‘the speed of recovery from the current Covid-19 pandemic’.

Explaining the reason for making the loan, council leader Allen Brett said Dale were ‘much more than a local business’.

He said: “As the home of professional football in Rochdale it has a significant community value, helping to promote a feeling of pride in the borough and generating work for other businesses in the local supply chain.

“The club also brings a valuable community benefit through its work ‘Dale in the Community’ and works with partners to provide football and multi-sport activities across the borough, along with the Rochdale Hornets, which will also benefit from the proposal.

“This a good example of the council helping to support a valuable community asset during a time of crisis to ensure it can continue to benefit the borough for years to come.”

The report added that the council had ‘sought to support businesses and livelihoods as much as possible since the pandemic started to ensure that our borough can come back from this crisis stronger and better’.

Councillor Brett continued: “We’ve now paid out more than 85 per cent of our government allocation of business grants, the highest rate in Greater Manchester, and as of this week have already started making payments to businesses after successfully lobbying government for additional grant funding.”

The English Football League (EFL) board was meeting today (Wednesday) to discuss the next steps for the League One campaign.

While some clubs are understood to be in agreement on ending the season, some of those in the hunt for promotion are keen for it to continue in some format.

It is understood three different scenarios will be put forward to the 23 sides that make up the division, with a vote likely to take place on Friday.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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