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Lloyds could sell Crystal Palace's football ground to developers

Wed 28th Apr 2010 | Clubs Ownership

Lloyds Banking Group is facing an awkward dilemma over whether to sell Selhurst Park football ground cut-price to Crystal Palace fans or accept a better offer from property developers who may turn the pitch into a supermarket.

The state-backed bank would attract significant public criticism if it sold the ground to a developer because it would risk the future of the football club. However, a consortium of fans seeking to buy Selhurst Park are offering less than the administrator's valuation.

As a result, Lloyds risks costing its shareholders – largely taxpayers, who own 41pc of the bank – money if it agrees to their approach.

Crystal Palace and Selhurst Park have collapsed into separate administrations and if the club is relegated to League One then its revenues will be significantly damaged.

Lloyds is the major creditor to Selhurst Park with £12m of debt outstanding from its funding of Paul Kemsley's acquisition of the ground. The entrepreneur's empire collapsed last year, taking the ground into administration. Crystal Palace rented Selhurst Park from Mr Kemsley.

CPFC 2010, the consortium of fans trying to buy the football club, has indicated it will pay around £3m to buy Selhurst Park out of administration, according to sources close to the situation. However, the administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers, believe the ground is worth £6m and four other parties are in the running to acquire it.

Among those parties are believed to be property developers who are open to changing the use of Selhurst Park and increasing its value. Sainsbury's, the supermarket, has a store next to the ground at present but is thought to be seeking a larger 70,000 sq ft outlet in the area. Sources believe that informal talks have been held between some of the bidders for Selhurst Park and the retailer.

The developers involved in the race for Selhurst Park are thought to be financially strong enough to fund a bid, planning applications and an appeal if necessary.

Sources believe senior figures at Lloyds have become involved in the Selhurst Park process, anxious the bank's reputation among investors and the public could be damaged further if the issue is not handled correctly.

Lloyds is keen not to make an "emotional decision". It is, however, believed to be willing to consider the lower offer if it leads to the survival of the club.

CPFC 2010 is led by Steve Parish, chief executive of Tag Worldwide, a design agency.

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