A group of shareholders in West Bromwich Albion have taken steps to ensure that the Hawthorn’s ground is protected for years to come.
They have made an application to Sandwell Council for the club’s home ground to be nominated as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). Such a nomination for any land or building can result in a listing by the council, protecting the land or buildings on it from a quick-fire sale to developers and other interested third parties.
The move, which has been backed by the club should, if approved, safeguard the ground within the community for generations to come.
It follows concerns within certain sections of the fanbase that the club were planning to sell buildings belonging to the Championship side, although suggestions that the entire stadium could be sold off have been denied.
Once a site is listed as an asset, then the local community must be informed if it is subsequently listed for sale. In such as case there is a moratorium period of six months to allow groups acting on behalf of the community to raise the necessary funds to buy it on a right of first refusal basis.
Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium, and Liverpool’s Anfield, are other grounds which are similarly protected by an AVC.
The group, who are part of the S4A independent association, and who comprise some 400 individuals, hold 12% of the club’s shares.
The remaining 88% are owned by Guochuan Lai, a Chinese businessman and millionaire, who has a total wealth estimated at £1.1 billion, but who is based in Guangzhou and rarely attends the club’s matches.
He is deeply unpopular with Albion supporters, especially after it emerged in the company’s delayed accounts that he had taken out a £4.95 million loan from the club for another of his businesses, Wisdom Smart Corporation Limited.
During Tuesday’s Championship match against Blackpool, hundreds of fans joined in with the Shine a Light protest in the 12th minute of the match.
The Hawthorns has been the home of the Albion for 122 years, and was the first football ground to be built in the 20th century.
It has the distinction of being the highest ground above sea level in England, at an altitude of 551 feet.
In addition to West Brom matches it has also England internationals and FA Cup semi-finals.
The record attendance at the Hawthorns was set in 1937 when 64,815 spectators were present for a visit by Arsenal.