COUNCILLORS have approved loaning £750,000 to the county’s FA to help pay for a major revamp of a football ground with a view to Worcester City FC ending its exile and returning to the city.

Worcestershire Football Association (WFA) said it needed the final bit of cash to complete the redevelopment of Claines Lane in Worcester which includes a new artificial 3G pitch, a 100-seat stand and new floodlights.

WFA was given permission to demolish the existing facilities at Claines Lane in Worcester and build a new clubhouse, changing rooms and offices for its new headquarters. Despite gaining permission for the redevelopment by the city council’s planning committee almost a year ago, WFA had yet to secure all of the money needed to carry out the redevelopment.

Councillor Louis Stephen said the city council was very keen to support local football in Worcester but the money would also help prepare the facilities for exiled Worcester City to move back into the city.

After the meeting he said: "The council's city plan rightly prioritises grassroots sport in the city.

"The council worked with the swimming clubs on the design of the swimming pool, it's supported the new hockey facilities and now I'm very pleased that we have agreed unanimously on a cross-party basis to support the further development of grass-roots football for the city.

"I do hope that the work we are doing with the local FA will enable Worcester City to come back to the city.

"The key thing to stress about Claines Lane is that it has Green, Labour and Conservative cross-party support.

"The loan we are providing to WFA is a key enabler to complete their project and hopefully also bring Worcester City back home too."

Talks between the city council’s party leaders and council bosses have been held in the last month about the possibility of Worcester City FC moving to Claines Lane.

Discussions between the exiled club’s shareholders and supporters trust centred on whether the club could ground-share with Worcester Raiders, who are having to play away from Claines Lane because of the refurbishment, or hand over the club to Worcester Warriors owners Bond Group and play at Sixways.

Much of the work was expected to have been completed by September in time for the start of the new season.

The full cost of the redevelopment, expected income from the new facilities and a complete breakdown of the secured funding is included in confidential papers and was discussed by the city council’s policy and resources committee on Tuesday (December 10).

Shane Flynn, corporate director of finance and resources at the city council, said there was an element of risk in the loan but if the WFA was unable to make its repayments the council would still have ownership of the site and make money by using it as a community facility.

Cllr Chris Mitchell said: “I’m not going to mention numbers for obvious reasons [as the meeting would have to have been moved into a private session] but [looking at] the security of the loan of the site, when I look at the numbers, that doesn’t come anywhere near in terms of the purchase price of the site of the sort of loan we are giving them.

“Am I missing something or are we understanding that there is a risk that we are willing to live with?"

Around £1 million has already been secured from The Football Foundation - money handed from Premier League football clubs, the Football Association via government body Sports England - to help improve grassroots football as well as several other smaller grants.

WFA has said it will also use around £300,000 of its reserves to help pay for the work and using the money it brings in from selling its current offices in Hampton Lovett, near Droitwich.

County football bosses have said they may not use all of the £750,000 it borrows from the city council and has also allowed for some leeway in case any unexpected costs arise. WFA said it would prefer to pay off the loan over a 40-year period rather than the usual 25 years but may not necessarily use all of the loan and would only take what it needed from the overall pot of money.