Gateshead International Stadium. Photo: Nican45/CC
Gateshead International Stadium. Photo: Nican45/CC

Extracts of the Gateshead Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) statement regarding the exclusion of Gateshead FC from the National League play-offs for promotion to EFL League Two

When does a dream season, Gateshead FC finishing 6th in the league and qualifying for the play-offs and reaching the FA Trophy final at Wembley, turn into a nightmare? Answer: when Gateshead Council is your landlord.

On 23 April, Gateshead should have been playing Solihull Moors to progress in the play-offs. But, due to the decisions of Gateshead Council, the football club’s progress has been effectively scuppered without a ball being kicked.

EFL rules for a club applying for promotion are that they must have “security of tenure to play matches at its stadium for a minimum of ten seasons”.

Gateshead Council alone, as the owner of the Gateshead International Stadium (GIS), is responsible for this disaster. Only the council has the power to grant a ten-year lease to the club. They have deliberately chosen not to do so.

Nobody would argue that the GIS is a perfect venue for football. It has faults that require attention. But it has been the club’s home since 1977 and, unless there are as yet unrevealed new plans to build an alternative stadium, it will remain the only feasible option in the short to medium term.

The council will no doubt attempt to blame the EFL for not being flexible, despite the council having known about this rule for two years and choosing to ignore it.

However, this debacle is not accidental, it is the result of Gateshead Council Labour majority’s long-standing policy of avoiding a fight with successive governments, over their disastrous austerity programmes.

The cuts in local authority finance imposed by 13 years of Tory rule have been devastating. But the Labour council, rather than organising a fightback, has simply passed these cuts on.

Sold out with sell-offs

Gateshead Council’s refusal to grant a ten-year lease is tied up with its policy to cease the public ownership and/or operation of leisure facilities in the borough. Last year saw the closure of the leisure centres in Saltwell and Birtley. The others, including the GIS, were spared, for now.

TUSC, since its inception in 2010, has consistently opposed cuts in public services and the privatisation of communal assets and/or their management.

TUSC has repeatedly pointed out that austerity and cuts are not a necessity but a political choice.

TUSC Gateshead wishes good luck to the team playing on 11 May in the FA Trophy final, ironically against Solihull Moors, the team they should have been playing in the first round of the play-offs.

Up the Heed!

The following TUSC candidates are standing in Gateshead on 2 May: Tom Allen in Blaydon, Norman Hall in Deckham, Elaine Brunskill in High Fell, Sam Morden in Low Fell and Ros Cooper in Ryton, Crookhill and Stella