HARTLEPOOL United have become embroiled in a bitter row with council chiefs after accusing the local authority of wanting the club to “fail”.
Pools chairman Ken Hodcroft used his programme notes ahead of Saturday’s match with Luton Town to launch a stinging attack on Hartlepool Borough Council.
Mr Hodcroft accused the council of failing to support the club, and added that the owners IOR “will not stand much more”.
The council hit back at the claims, describing the chairman’s comments as “unwarranted and completely without foundation”.
Mr Hodcroft claims the council has failed to support the club over the sale of ground and hit out over a plan to re-introduce five-yearly rent reviews.
In his column, Mr Hodcroft said: “HBC are determined to do everything in their power to ensure that this club fails.
“The lack of support to allow the club to buy the land has been followed by their latest second letter threatening to implement rent increases going back to 2002.
“The public of this town elect this council so maybe the removal of IOR is the public’s wish that HBC want to implement, if it is not then maybe shouts of “HBC out” should be heard not just in this stadium but throughout the whole town.
“Let’s be frank, the owners of this club will not stand much more of the complete failure of HBC to support this club which brings in annual revenue of £5m into the town of Hartlepool by playing at least 23 home games and developing other benefits and positive publicity for the town.”
The council is now looking at reviewing the rent paid by the club after claiming the rate has remained frozen for the last 12 years.
Council bosses also insisted they would welcome further talks with IOR in a bid to reach an agreement over the ground sale - but warned that a “realistic” approach was needed.
Councillor Robbie Payne, chairman of the council’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “Mr Hodcroft’s comments about the council in his programme notes are totally unwarranted and completely without foundation – and they do him no credit at all.
“The council has been willing to negotiate the sale of Victoria Park for a long time now, but IOR has consistently failed to table an acceptable offer.
“The amount of rent paid on Victoria Park by Hartlepool United FC was frozen some time ago pending the outcome of talks – and it has now remained at the same level for the last 12 years.
“Given the impasse that has been reached and the lack of any recent direct contact from IOR over the sale of the ground, we are now looking to implement the rent reviews which under the terms of the lease are due every five years.
“The council’s position has not changed, however, in that our door is always open and we remain willing to re-open negotiations for the sale of Victoria Park – but only if IOR are prepared to adopt a realistic approach.
“For negotiations to resume, IOR must make an acceptable offer and agree to any sale agreement including a clause stipulating that Victoria Park should only ever be used for football purposes.”