Lions Chairman's reaction to Council decision
Millwall Chairman John Berylson is "appalled and bewildered" that the long term future of the Club is being put at risk by Lewisham Council. The Council plans to hand over to a property developer key areas of land that are currently leased to the Club and to the Millwall Community Scheme Trust – and refuses to consult with the Club about the process.
Millwall has been notified by the Council that the freehold of three areas of land surrounding The Den – the car park, a space behind the stadium and the site of the Millwall Community Scheme Trust’s Lions Centre – are being sold by the Council to developers Renewal Ltd.
MFC has a long lease on the car park and the area behind the stadium, while the Millwall Community Scheme Trust – which the Club supports and sponsors to do work in the community – has a shorter lease on the Lions Centre.
The Millwall Community Scheme Trust has helped thousands of local people from what is one of the most diverse and deprived boroughs in London. The Lions Centre is not only home to several sports groups but also houses vital programmes helping social inclusion.
Handing over the freeholds to Renewal Ltd will not only put the future of the award-winning Millwall Community Scheme at risk but also the long-term survival of the Club because it will deprive Millwall of any opportunity to generate non-football revenues which are vital to a loss-making club.
The Club commissioned architects last year to draw up ambitious plans for the development of the three areas adjoining The Den. These plans were consistent with the Council's overall scheme for the regeneration of the Surrey Canal Triangle which Millwall fully supports. The Football Club even offered safeguards to reassure the Council that the development around The Den would proceed within an agreed timeframe.
But the Council refused to consider Millwall's plans and declined to share the commercial information the Club would have required to make its own bid to buy the three parcels of land. John Berylson is now urging Lewisham Council to come back to the negotiating table to consider Millwall's plans for all three areas to ensure the continued success of the Club in a rejuvenated Lewisham.
Millwall feels it is vital to secure these areas of land to:
• Ensure its long term future at The Den at the heart of the community.
• Guarantee non-football revenues to help see MFC through the inevitable ups and downs of a professional football club.
• Be given the opportunity to participate in the regeneration scheme by allowing the club to develop appropriately the land immediately surrounding the stadium.
• Give a flourishing community scheme new improved premises so that the Club can continue to support it.
The Club has written to local politicians and community leaders and has produced its own leaflet explaining its plans and asking for the community’s support. It has also written to Lewisham Council spelling out its compelling case and asking it to show the same support to Millwall that the football club showed to the Borough in helping the campaign to save Lewisham A&E.
The Club donated and raised thousands of pounds to fund the successful judicial review which saved the hospital, as well as showing its support by wearing 'Save Lewisham A&E' shirts before matches.
Mr Beryslon said: "I am appalled and bewildered by the behaviour of the Council towards Millwall Football Club, our fans and our Community Scheme.
"Millwall has always been a club rooted in its community. It launched and supported the Millwall Community Scheme Trust almost 30 years ago which has helped thousands of young people over the years and the Club was proud to be at the forefront of the Save Lewisham A&E campaign.
"Lewisham Council’s decision to sell the freehold of these three areas of land adjoining our stadium – including the Lions Centre and our car park – to property developers without considering our own plans makes us feel isolated, unsupported by our local authority and angry.
"If these land sales go through, they will put the long-term future of the Club at risk because it will mean non-football assets that we hold in our leases will be surrendered to a property developer. We have the long-term interests of the Club and the community in mind. Renewal does not. Lewisham Council must be urged to think again."