Worcester City Football Club are on course to be playing back in their home city in time for the 2020/21 season, thanks to the announcement of an in-principle agreement.
Following discussions initiated by Worcester City Council and involving the Club, Worcestershire Football Association and the Club's Supporters' Trust, Worcester City FC are set to establish their new home at the County Sports Ground on Claines Lane in the city.
The site, which is currently being re-developed, is owned by Worcestershire FA and is also the home playing ground for Worcester Raiders FC.
The in-principle agreement has been reached after discussions established that Claines Lane would be a suitable location for the current needs of the Club.
Worcester City FC have been playing at temporary grounds since leaving St George's Lane in 2013. The Club currently play at Bromsgrove Sporting FC's ground.
Only minor changes are needed to Claines Lane to meet the ground grading requirements for the level at which Worcester City FC compete. A move to Worcestershire FA's ground will offer the Club the new revenue opportunities they need to operate as a sustainable business and will also provide much-needed stability in the medium to long term.
The agreement would see Worcester City FC placed alongside Worcester Raiders FC and other teams that already play at Claines Lane, with the Club becoming a long-term tenant of Worcestershire FA.
Worcester City FC recognise that the already planned development of Claines Lane and the work to date, including the installation of a stand and floodlights, has involved significant effort on behalf of other parties including Worcester Raiders FC. City wish to acknowledge that it is due to this that the opportunity for them to return to Worcester has been possible, and they look forward to having a strong working relationship with Raiders and other parties using the site.
This in-principle agreement has cross-party support from the leaders of the three largest political parties on Worcester City Council.
Councillor Marc Bayliss, Leader of Worcester City Council, said: "I am very pleased that we have reached an in-principle agreement. Having initiated these latest discussions, it has long been our aim to see Worcester City FC return home to the city."
Steve Goode, Chair of Worcester City Football Club, said: "I'm very pleased that we can finally bring Worcester City FC home after living in exile for far too long. We're very pleased with the level of support, cooperation and commitment we have received from Worcestershire FA and Worcester City Council and look forward to bringing this to fruition."
Nichola Trigg, Chief Executive of Worcestershire FA, said: "This will be an opportunity for the two senior ranked clubs in Worcester to play out of a central venue, share resources and opportunities."
David Wood, Chair of Worcester City FC Supporters' Trust, said: ''We are very excited to have the opportunity to return to the city of Worcester, where we belong. Thanks to Worcester City Council and Worcestershire FA for their agreement to support and implement this next phase of WCFC history.''
Kevin Jenkins, Chair of Worcester Raiders FC, said "Raiders are proud of their efforts in upgrading the Claines Lane ground with the installation of a new stand and floodlights. The support from members of our Club, Complete Utilities and Bradford's Building Supplies has been fantastic. We look forward to developing a working relationship with City and to enhancing the facility for the benefits of both clubs."
At this stage no formal agreement has been signed, however Worcester City FC, Worcestershire FA and Worcester City Council are focused on working closely together to ensure the Club can take up residence at Claines Lane at the start of the 2020/21 season.
All parties involved are aware that there will be some concerns about this development and are committed to working closely with residents and stakeholders to ensure Worcester City FC's move to Claines Lane will be as seamless as possible.
No increase in capacity at the ground is required to accommodate the needs of the Club and steps are being taken to secure additional match-day parking facilities in the area.