THE new owner of Tranmere Rovers has said plans for the future of the club would be jeopardized if the sale of its former training ground for redevelopment is rejected.
Mark Palios raised his concerns a week before Wirral planning committee meets to consider the League Two club’s application to sell its Ingleborough Road site in Birkenhead, to make way for development of 90 houses.
The scheme goes hand-in-hand with a parallel application to create four full-sized football pitches plus one junior academy pitch and one training area on land near the Solar Campus in Leasowe.
A decision on the proposals was deferred by Wirral planning committee last month until site visits had taken place.
A final decision will be made when it meets on Thursday, with planners recommending approval.
The schemes have the support of the club's supporters' trust, who recently said development would be in the interests of the wider community and the club.
Mr Palios said: “We have already publically stated that our plans to make Tranmere Rovers Football Club self-sustainable are predicated on two planks.
“One is being a development club and the other is being more than a Football Club, with Rovers becoming a sports hub in the heart of the community.
“The move to Solar Campus is a central part of our thinking and if we fail to achieve this aim it will present a serious set-back to our plans.
“If we are unable to follow through on our plans to build a first class academy complex at Solar Campus, the club will find it impossible to provide the adequate training facilities required to retain our prized Category 3 Academy status.
“Failing to gain Category 3 status would mean Tranmere Rovers losing the crucial central funding provided to Football League clubs and this would put in jeopardy our ability to continue with our youth development programme.
“This would stop the current and future generation of youngsters achieving their dreams of playing professional football and also end the work the Academy does in the community in helping young people on the Wirral.”
He added: “The sale of players from our Academy has raised over £15m in recent years and income of that level is impossible to find in the current climate.
“So on several levels it is important for Tranmere Rovers and the Wirral community that we are successful with our plans to move to Solar Campus.
“We are truly excited about this project and the benefits it can bring to the area as a whole.”
But the scheme has sparked controversy, with campaigners calling it “disrespectful” to the memories of Wirral soldiers killed in the First World War.
Ingleborough field is a dedicated memorial to 88 former students of Birkenhead Institute, who lost their lives in the war, among them the renowned war poet Wilfred Owen, who was educated at the school.
Eighty-eight trees representing the fallen soldiers were planted around the field as a living memorial to the dead in the 1920s.
Among those against the plans is campaigner Dean Johnson. Speaking on behalf of Birkenhead Institute Old Boys, he told the Globe: "It is gratifying that new ownership at Tranmere Rovers has resulted in them finally breaking silence on the need to dispose of the Memorial Fields in this way.
"For the past two years, Peter Johnson has ignored our pleas for consultation and discussion with Birkenhead Institute Old Boys, who hold dear to the example of those of our number who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this Country.
"This is something which has caused a great deal of unnecessary upset. Had we had such an opportunity this could have led to other options being considered, in particular particularly in terms of the current inadequate proposals for a Memorial Feature.
"In the new spirit of openness which Mark Palios appears to be bringing to the Club, we hope that he will agree to meet us to enable such discussions to take place with the aim of finding a solution of which we all can be proud."