Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis told to listen to fans over City Ground relocation plan

Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis
Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis -Credit:Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest's billionaire owner has been told to listen to Reds supporters by the city council's leader as the battle over the future of the City Ground continues. Councillor David Mellen, the outgoing leader of Nottingham City Council, has hit back at comments made by Evangelos Marinakis in which he described Nottingham as lacking in ambition.

Councillor Mellen also questioned whether sending people "halfway to Derby to watch a Nottingham team" was sensible. It comes as a Nottingham MP has hit out Forest leaving the City Ground and building a stadium in Toton, saying she doesn't know a "single supporter" who backs the idea.

The dispute between Forest and the city council began when the club went public about its opposition to the council wanting to increase the rent it pays on the City Ground's land. The club chairman says the council wants to change the current lease, which there is 30 years left on, by upping yearly rent from £250,000 to "north of a million."

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Yet the council says an offer for Forest to buy the freehold for the stadium instead at a cost of £10 million has been on the table from the very beginning. Despite this, Nottinghamshire County Council has confirmed that it has been approached by Forest regarding land in Toton once earmarked for HS2.

The dispute has now been intensified after Mr Marinakis gave an interview to the Daily Mail in which he said: "It'll be hard to leave City Ground, but in an age when revenue streams dictate success on the pitch, there's no doubt moving to a bigger facility will set the club on the right path. Over the last 10 years, the city of Nottingham has lacked the confidence and ambition of the other big regional cities of Manchester and Birmingham."

Councillor David Mellen, who will leave office as the city council leader on May 20, hit back at those comments by saying: "It's clearly not the case that Nottingham hasn't got ambition. If you were there in the square when Nottingham Forest did get promoted from the Championship, you could see the ambition there and the welcome that the club received at the Council House as we celebrated with them.

"We hope that the club will stabilise themselves, but it's clear from the words of the fans, and I think Mr Marinakis needs to listen to the words of the fans clearly, that they don't want to move from Nottingham. Our doors are open for further conversations about how the City Ground can be improved and capacity increased, but the fans don't sing Mist Rolling In From The Trent for no reason."

Nadia Whittome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East and an ardent Forest fan, also strongly opposes the idea of the club leaving its historic City Ground home. The MP said: "City Ground has so much history attached to it. I don't know a single supporter who wants the stadium to move. It's a great location, which benefits both the fans and Nottingham as a city, so I really hope that the club and the council can come to an agreement.

"It's essential that any deal also offers good value for money for Nottingham's taxpayers, as it wouldn't be right to expect them to subside Forest's owners, especially in a cost of living crisis. I'm hopeful this can be achieved."