AFC TOTTON have finally shed their ‘crisis club’ tag and are focusing on a bright new future.
The Stags have wiped out 90 per cent of their debt following the conclusion of the sale of their Testwood Stadium home.
After months of hush-hush negotiations, Totton have revealed that the Salisbury Road ground is now owned by AFC Totton Leisure Limited.
The new ground owners comprise of two directors – successful local businessman Peter Harding and former Eastleigh FC director Steve Brookwell.
Although the two parties will not reveal how much the stadium was sold for, AFC Totton chairman Andy Straker confirmed: “The club have now concluded its negotiations over the sale of the ground and all the legal work has been completed.
“We have now addressed 90 per cent of our debt and are in discussions with the couple of outstanding creditors we have to make final payments to, which will then rid the club of the crippling debt that it has been suffering over the last couple of seasons.
“This can only be good news for AFC Totton and its future.”
Totton are at pains to stress that they remain a members’ club and retain full control of the three-and-a-half-year-old stadium under the terms of their lease, which will initially run for 15 years and can be renegotiated at the end of that period.
Totton moved into their plush, new home – built for an estimated £2.9 million – in February 2011 after the sale of their old Testwood Park HQ to Linden Homes.
But running costs quickly became a millstone round the neck of the Stags, who were in danger of going under last summer, weighed down by debts reportedly totalling in excess of £170,000.
A mass exodus of senior players followed and Totton’s new-look, young side were last season relegated from the Southern League Premier Division back to Division One South & West.
With the 128-year-old club now back on an even keel, attention will turn to bringing in new sponsors and making the facilities profitable.
“It’s about bringing money in and getting the club back to where it belongs which, in the first instance, is the Southern Premier Division,” said Straker.
Totton have already set up an executive club run by former Southampton kitman Woggy Taylor, who carried out similar duties at Eastleigh. It will operate in the executive box in the main stand on match days and Taylor – a popular figure at St Mary’s – will invite ex-Saints players along as the season progresses.
Commenting on the sale of the ground, Straker said: “It wasn’t an easy decision for us to negotiate or for our members to agree.
“But people kept going on about a big, black hole of debt and that big, black hole has now vanished.
“We no longer have creditors screaming at the door for money.
“This has to be a season we can all look forward to.”