While more illustrious rivals like Chelsea ponder leaving their traditional home to cure the unimaginable ill of only having a 42,000-seater stadium, one altogether more modest football club faces the prospect of being turfed out of the ground it has occupied for around nine decades because today marks the twenty first anniversary of the death of the Norwegian King.
An obscure clause in the agreement which handed amateur club Cromer Town FC its home in the aftermath of the First World War means that the death of the “People’s King” in 1991 set a time-bomb ticking for the Norfolk club. And the deadline is today.
The landowner Evelyn Bond-Cabbell agreed to allow the club to play its home games on her land, Cabbell Park, as a mark of respect to the townspeople who lost their lives in the Great War. She also hoped it would help with local unemployment following the conflict. But a clause hidden away in the 1922 lease meant that the club would have to vacate its home 21 years to the day after the death of King Edward VII’s last grandchild, King Olav V of Norway.
Cromer Town FC are vying for the title in the Anglian Combination Premier Division – ten tiers below the Premier League – and are four points clear at the top of the table.
Talks have been ongoing for more than two and a half years to find a solution and the local council says it has scheduled more meetings in the next few weeks. A spokesman added yesterday that “arbitrary dates”, such as today’s deadline, would be regarded as flexible and that, were it eventually forced from its home, the club would have to be given time to fulfill its remaining fixtures.
The club hopes to stay at its home ground in the long term. But Mrs Bond-Cabbell’s great grandson Benjamin Cabbell Manners, a local councillor, current chairman of Cabbell Park trustees and owner of Cromer Hall, has said he is considering a change.
He said: “The trust disappears 21 years after King Olav’s death. I can confirm that when the trust goes, the legal right for the football club to play at Cabbell Park goes with it.” He told the Daily Telegraph as talks got underway in 2009 to try to secure the club’s future: “We will be looking at the wishes of my great-grandmother to see how it’s taken forward. She provided a sports field for all of Cromer to enjoy. Her wishes were paramount.”
More than two and a half years later, an agreement is still to be reached.
Plans to move the club to an out-of-town ground along with the local youth teams floundered last year when club officials questioned the plan’s viability and claimed that the 21-year countdown had not yet started.
They said that relative of the king the Earl of Harewood, who was unborn when the lease was signed, was legally “in being” at that time. The Earl, however, died last year at the age of 88, meaning that, should he be accepted as the last remaining family member, the clock may once again be ticking.