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Supermarket fight over ground deal

Published 13/07/2015

The Memorial Stadium was described as 'dilapidated'
The Memorial Stadium was described as 'dilapidated'

A High Court judge will rule today on a contract dispute between one of the country's largest supermarket chains and a football club over "an old-fashioned and rather dilapidated sports ground".

The judge has heard that Bristol Rovers are hoping to build a 21,700-seat stadium on the Frenchay campus of the University of the West of England.

Sainsbury's agreed a £30 million deal to buy the club's 12,000-capacity Memorial Stadium in northern Bristol, lease it back for a peppercorn rent until the Frenchay stadium was ready, and then redevelop the old stadium as a new store.

But the supermarket giant came to London's High Court to argue that it was legally entitled to terminate the contract because conditions linked to the agreement had not been satisfied.

Lawyers for the club countered that either the contract was "still on foot" or Sainsbury's had breached it.

The presiding judge, Mrs Justice Proudman, described the case as "extremely complex" and heard from a series of witnesses during a week-long hearing in May.

Today she announces her decision.

David Matthias QC, for Rovers, conceded in court that the agreement between Sainsbury's and the club was "Byzantine in its complexity".

At an earlier hearing, he described Rovers as being "in the doldrums" in the Conference Premier following relegation from the Football League and they were seeking to boost their fortunes by moving to the new stadium in Stoke Gifford.

Mark Wonnacott QC, for Sainsbury's - who described the Memorial Stadium as "old-fashioned and rather dilapidated", argued that the "structure of the contract" meant that conditions had not been met by a cut-off date and the contract had been lawfully terminated.

Mr Matthias disagreed and said there had been a "misunderstanding" of the significance of the term "cut-off date" in the agreement.

He said: "There is nothing in this agreement that stipulates, implies or requires that the cut-off date will bring about the cessation of any obligations on any party."

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