SWINDON Town fans have been given the chance to have a say in the future of the County Ground after it was declared an asset of community value.

The stadium is one of the first buildings in the town to be given the protected status by Swindon Council. It means that if it were ever sold off, Swindon Town’s supporters trust, Trust STFC would be given six months to prepare their own bid.

The idea took off after other clubs around the country made the step to protect their assets from owners who may be tempted to cash in on them. Coun Jim Robbins (Lab, Mannington and Western), saw his club Ipswich Town make the move and proposed it at full council.

“Swindon have had some challenging owners in their recent history, and the trust thought if another team of owners came in with questionable plans they could end up losing the stadium,” he said.

“I want to make it clear I have no concerns about the current owners, they are doing their best for the club. But this will give the fans some protection for years to come.

“If at any point they do want to sell up, the fans have got the opportunity to get involved. “It gives them a six-month stop on things and there would be a consultation exercise.

Trust STFC chairman Steve Mytton said: “While there is already a covenant in place protecting the continued recreational use of the County Ground, its listing as an asset of community value is an important further step.

“It will mean that fans and the local community will be in the driving seat if there is ever a future decision to be made about the ground development or sale”.

“As a trust, we want to strengthen bonds between the club and the community and we want to establish emergency plans to address any possible future crisis that could develop.

“Our successful application to list the County Ground an asset of community value meets both these objectives perfectly.”

Coun Robbins said the status gives supporters some power. “There could be a plan in the future to move to a purpose-built stadium, and if that happens they would need to go down this route,” he said. “It puts the supporters trust right at the heart of any big decisions to affect the club in the future.

“There will be an opportunity that the fans themselves can raise the necessary funds in the meantime.

“If the council were to sell the land the stadium is on for development, they would not be looking for a lot of money for it. “This ensures football will be played at the County Ground for years to come. You just have to look at what happened at Cardiff City to see some of the dangers of people coming in and wanting to change a club, and it does make you worry.”