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LESS IS MOOR

22-01-2007

South Birmingham's most successful non-league football club Moor Green look to be heading for oblivion after a meeting at the weekend proposed a merger with Solhihull Borough. Can this really be the end for the team which "discovered", among others, Ian Taylor of Villa? Steve Beauchampé reports

Moor Green and Solihull Borough football clubs have applied to the Football Association to merge, Moors Secretary Nigel Collins told a public meeting in Hall Green on Saturday morning.

The meeting, held at Hall Green Baptist Church, near Moor Green's ground in Sherwood Road, was attended by over 100 supporters and local residents, almost two years after a series of fires ruined the club's grandstand, offices and social facilities, neccesitating an abandonment of the site and a move to share Solihull Borough's ground in Damson Parkway.

Collins told the meeting that despite discussions with the City Council and Football Association, Moors had concluded that it was impractical to rebuild on the Sherwood Road site, where the club played between 1930 and early 2005.

It had been estimated that the cost of redeveloping Sherwood Road would be around £2m, but with Moor Green needing to generate income of around £200,000 per annum to just to retain their status in Nationwide League North (one division below the Conference), and with gates never likely to rise much over 5-600 the sums did not add up. Collins added that early indications were that the FA would look favourably on the merger.

Speaking on behalf of Birmingham City Council, Hall Green Constituency Director Brett Willers stated that though the Council fully supported the club remaining at Sherwood Road as an independent entity, a major barrier to redevelopment had been the FA's insistence that they would not allow the installation of a Third Generation Pitch - basically a hybrid playing surface that is neither wholly natural nor entirely synthetic.

Such a surface, an example of which has recently been installed by Moseley Rugby Club at their new Billesley Common headquarters, would have allowed regular use by local schools and a host of community groups, thus opening up a variety of possible funding streams and income sources to the club.

Without such a pitch, Collins stressed, the only way for Moors to remain at their old home would be to sell off a portion of the site, probably for housing, but with little prospect of generating the income to even stand still, let alone grow and prosper. In contrast, money generated from the sale of Sherwood Road would be invested in the new club, whose ground is already used by the FA for minor representative matches and Birmingham City for reserve team games.

However, there seemed little mood amongst both supporters and residents to fight the merger plans, though much concern was voiced by residents over the prospect of a further loss of sporting and recreational facilities in an area which currently has only around 10% of that recommended by government guidelines.

Whilst the Council accepted that a portion of the site would almost inevitably be redeveloped for housing, many in the audience urged the local authority to investigate whether two schools near the ground might take over the remaining land to develop as community sports facilities.

Does Moor Green have any alternative but to merge with Solihull Borough? Will the new club really be any stronger as a result? And should the Sherwood Road ground be preserved for sporting use instead of housing?

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