Football: Noades barrier to sale of Park

RON NOADES, the former Crystal Palace chairman who still owns the club's Selhurst Park stadium, said yesterday he was in no position to sell the south London ground to Palace's tenants, Wimbledon, writes Nick Harris.

Following reports that Wimbledon's co-owner, Sam Hammam, was considering buying Selhurst Park, Noades explained that, when he sold the club last summer for pounds 22.8m, he gave Mark Goldberg a five-year option on purchasing the ground for pounds 10.6m. Only if Goldberg defaults on loan repayments to Noades - the next instalment of pounds 600,000 is due in June - would the new owner technically waive his right to that option.

"Sam can't buy the freehold unless he buys it from Crystal Palace," Noades, now the owner and manager of Third Division Brentford, said. However, if Palace's financial problems were to result in the club going bust, he added, Hamman would be free to buy Selhurst Park for his side, who have been without a permanent home since they vacated Plough Lane in 1990.

Should Palace stay solvent, Hamman's other option could be to persuade Goldberg to relinquish his claim to the ground and forge an agreement that would see him owning Selhurst Park, perhaps as the landlord to Crystal Palace. This option is unlikely to appeal to either side, with Goldberg still hoping to retain control of his club and its home, and Hammam probably not planning on sharing a ground.

Luton Town have lost their appeal against the Government's decision to block the club's plans for a new stadium.

A High Court judge rejected claims that a refusal of planning permission for the Kohler Dome project - a pounds 50m multiple-use indoor stadium next to the M1 motorway in Bedfordshire - was "unreasonable", despite submissions that that there was an urgent need for the Second Division club to leave its "inadequate, unsafe and inappropriate" ground at Kenilworth Road in the town centre and relocate to secure its long-term survival.

Blackburn Rovers appear set to continue their fight for Premiership survival without the services of their Scottish international, Billy McKinlay.

The midfielder goes into hospital today for an operation on a groin problem that has troubled him for much of the season. The Ewood Park club fear that he may not be able to play again this term.

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