The Iron Trust successfully applied for an ACV (Asset of Community Value) on Glanford Park, the home of Scunthorpe United FC in 2021.

The idea of an ACV was first muted by Luke Thornhill who had been a founding board member of the Iron Trust. Luke had also been one of the original three people who first had the idea of creating a supporters Trust  Gaining support from the then Chairman Steve Wharton.

The idea of formally applying for an ACV was put to a vote of Iron Trust members in the late autumn of 2020 following concern overownership of the club’s ground. The result was overwhelmingly infavour and we pushed ahead successfully applying to North Lincolnshire Council.

But the journey from there was not smooth sailing. The club owner Peter Swann, who had taken over from Steve Wharton, had already announced his desire to build a 15000-capacity stadium within the new Lakes development which obviously left Glanford Park vulnerable.

It also came to light that Swann who was actively and openly trying to offload the club, then transferred the stadium and other land from the ownership of Scunthorpe United FC to his own Coolsilk Property and Investment Company in return for writing off debts of £11million.

This move, as the country came out of COVID, incensed fans and drove many away from supporting the club. Finally the chairman got the message and declared that a 999 year lease (later amended to 99 years) had been granted to Scunthorpe United. Though no paperwork and written agreement was ever presented it would later materialise that there was never any such lease agreement registered with the Land Registry

Finally in January 2023 a new owner came forward in the guise of David Hilton. Under Hilton, Scunthorpe United FC were allowed to remain playing at Glanford Park for the remainder of the 2022/23 season which saw the team relegated for the third successive season;

The club’s right to stay at Glanford Park ended in  May 2024, and as David Hilton had still not completed a deal to buy the club from Peter Swann the club was granted a £1 per week rental agreement by Hilton which was in breach of his original agreement as he was not allowed to sub let the ground.  We had a situation where Mr Swann owned the land whilst Mr Hilton owned the football club

This started a long legal battle between the two parties and eventually Swann got Glanford Park and the stadium back. In a further twist, David Hilton on Tuesday 19th December 2023 announced that he would no longer fund Scunthorpe United. He was later to walk away altogether after failed plans to move the club to play at Gainsborough Trinity’s Northolme stadium.

Peter Swann meanwhile announced that he was putting the Glanford Park site up for sale. In the background, a local consortium was trying to raise the funds to buy firstly the club from Hilton and then the ground from Swann.

Under the terms of the ACV, the Iron Trust activated the option to bid to purchase the Glanford Park site at the end of the six week moratorium window triggered from the point the owner signified his intention to sell the ground.  This automatically delayed any sale for 6 months, giving until 28 February 2024 for fund raising.  However, under the terms of the ACV legislation, Swann would not have been forced to sell to the Trust.

The Iron Trust did consider and take advice on the possibility of raising funds through a crowd funder but at a sale price of £3 million this would have been a big ask.

However the ACV being triggered created a window for negotiation between the local consortium, who had now gained control of the football club from Mr Hilton, and former owner Peter Swann who still owned the ground. At one point, the Iron were to be evicted and the last game would have been Brackley Town at home on October 7th 2023. The ACV also helped gain a temporary agreement between the club and Peter Swann for two further home matches to be played in October.  By the end of October proof of funds had been established between the two legal parties representing club and ground owner which then allowed the ongoing negotiations which eventually saw Scunthorpe United secure Glanford Park (now renamed The Attis Arena) through a newly created Community Interest Company called the New Showground CIC.  The Trust was involved in discussions about the CIC and eventually signed off the ACV in favour of the new company.

In summary, the ACV been activated bought the time required for the club to be saved and the ground, as neither were financially viable without the other and the ground could not, according to North Lincolnshire Council, be developed for housing or shop retail.

The ACV only became relevant when Mr Swann decided to sell the land on the open market and not as part of the football club.