Concerns have been raised about the relationship between the council-owned development company Arch and Ashington Community Football Club.
Arch Group’s ‘significant support over and beyond what would be expected’ was one of the matters of concern raised at a board meeting and then revealed publicly at the county council’s audit committee last Wednesday.
Earlier this year, council leader Peter Jackson said that ‘a massive £1.5million was wiped off the council’s assets’ after auditors said land and buildings owned by Arch and leased to the football club was overvalued.
Auditors EY pointed out that it had been valued at around £1.9 million, ‘on a depreciated replacement cost basis’, but using a ‘more appropriate basis’ of market value would be between £0.25million and £0.5million.
It has now been revealed that Arch has been funding salaries with associated costs (costing £132,000 from Feburary 2015 to December last year) for at least two members of staff who have not undertaken any work for Arch Group, but worked directly for Ashington CFC.
The council-owned company also paid the club’s utilities bill, alarm repair and brewery invoice to the tune of around £17,000, reportedly to help with cash-flow issues, but as yet, nothing has been repaid or recovered, the report to councillors said.
Capital spending on improving the facilities was around £1.6million (with initial approval from the Arch board for £981,500), while the company also provided sponsorship, sportsman dinners, a corporate evening and some Christmas entertaining to the value of around £23,000.
One of the committee members, Coun Gordon Castle, who is involved in another football club in Northumberland – Alnwick Town, described it as ‘astonishing’.
Coun Nick Oliver, the county council’s cabinet member of corporate resources, said he supported sports provision and its benefits to communities, but added: “Why does this football club get special treatment?”