Southampton set for pounds 50m move

Southampton Leisure, the owner of Southampton football club, said yesterday it was confident it would receive planning permission from local authorities in Hampshire to build a new pounds 50m stadium by the end of the year, writes Andrew Yates.

Rupert Lowe, Southampton's chairman, said: "We are very optimistic that this scheme will go through. We have already got outline planning permission."

Southampton also said it would make money available to its new team manager, David Jones, to buy more players, despite announcing a loss of pounds 910,000 for the 14 months to May after splashing out nearly pounds 1.5m on players last season.

"We have to balance the danger of relegation against the need to finance a new stadium. We have to defy gravity and compete with clubs that have a turnover five or six times bigger than ours," said Mr Lowe.

Analysts believe the loss of Graeme Souness, the former Liverpool and Scotland player who resigned as manager of the club earlier this year just 10 months into a three-year contract, cost Southampton pounds 600,000. It had to pay Stockport County compensation to secure the services of Mr Jones. It has also had to make redundancy payments following a clear out of some of the staff that Mr Souness brought in to help him run the club. Mr Lowe is considering claiming compensation from Mr Souness but described legal action as "unlikely".

The new 25,000 all-seater stadium will include new conference facilities and hospitality boxes and is located next to the motorway, mainline station and airport. The complex will also house a gymnasium and athletics track and probably a multiplex cinema and restaurants.

The club is seeking a grant from the National Lottery to help fund the project. Analysts say it will still probably have to issue more shares to pay for the new stadium.

The Dell, Southampton's existing ground, is likely to be developed into houses. The club also owns 41 acres of land nearby on which Bovis, the housebuilder, is looking to build a housing estate.

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