Out-Law News 1 min. read

Tribunal upholds Oxford United FC stadium ACV listing

A tribunal judge has rejected a challenge to the decision by Oxford City Council to include the Kassam Stadium on its list of assets of community value (ACV). 

The Council listed the stadium, which is the home ground of Oxford United Football Club (FC), as an ACV in May last year following an application by supporters' trust OxVox.

An ACV listing under the Localism Act entitles the supporters' group to be treated as a potential bidder if the stadium should come up for sale. The group will then have six months to put together a bid for the stadium, although it will be up to the owner to decide who to sell it to.

The tribunal judge rejected a claim by the owner of the stadium, Firoka (Oxford United Stadium) Ltd. (5-page / 33KB PDF), that ACV legislation was intended to apply only to small outfits such as a pub, shop or village hall. Firoka said that the ACV scheme was "simple", "unsophisticated" and not constructed to deal with such complex interactions as occur within a large stadium.

The judge said that there is nothing in the plain language of the ACV legislation to indicate that football stadia are excluded. He said there was no reason in principle why simple schemes should not be drafted to be applied in, sometimes, quite complex circumstances.

Firoka also claimed that Oxford United FC's use of the stadium was ancillary and that it therefore did not fall within the definition of "land of community value" in the ACV legislation, which expressly excludes ancillary use.

The judge said that, although there are only about 25 match days per year, the cultural, recreational and sporting interests extend wider.

"The existence of a home town club, intrinsically linked to the use of its home ground, fosters community pride; stimulates daily conversations in pubs, work places and online; forges friendships and encourages the mix of generations," the judge said.

The judge also rejected a claim that parts of the stadium, including an overflow car park and a void area behind a stand, should be excluded from the listing. He said that the current use of those areas meant the Council had been correct to include them. It would have been "wholly artificial" not to do so, the judge said.

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