Council blames error after women's football 'ban'

Peter McCormack
Club chairman Peter McCormack said he would cease negotiations [James Burridge/BBC]

A council has blamed a drafting error after a non-league football club was told women would be banned from playing at the ground.

Real Bedford was granted a 15-year lease in April but said new terms from Bedford Council, which include a rent increase, were unreasonable.

Club chairman Peter McCormack said he would cease negotiations and called on Bedford mayor Tom Wootton to resign.

The council said it was an error and its new terms did not reference gender.

The club claimed the council asked for £10,000 per annum in rent for a period of three years.

That rent would then increase by a further £10,000 every year after the third annual anniversary of the agreement.

Mr McCormack said the council threatened to terminate the club's lease if the ground was used for anything other than "senior men's first-team football".

The chairman called it a "direct attack" on the women's team and said the terms were "not only unreasonable but discriminatory".

He said there were also "vague termination clauses that give the council undue power to evict us".

He called on the mayor to resign immediately due to "his unacceptable handling of this matter, specifically with the effective ban he wants to place on women's football".

A council spokesperson confirmed the authority had given a 15-year lease at McMullen Park to Real Bedford with a break clause at three years.

"This decision was made in accordance with our procedure for lease renewals. There was a drafting error which was rectified within half an hour of the initial issue being raised to include all football. A new terms of reference is ready to send.

"We know the importance of sports across our borough - from benefits in health, fitness, and wellbeing. Approving this new lease we hope gives the club a great opportunity to grow and develop," a spokesperson said.

New terms sent to the club do not mention a restriction on the gender of footballers.

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