Bristol Rovers lose case over Sainsbury's stadium deal

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Media caption'Disappointment and kick in teeth'

Sainsbury's has won its High Court battle with Bristol Rovers over a £30m deal to buy the Memorial Stadium.

Sainsbury's agreed to buy the Memorial Stadium in 2011 and lease it to the club while a new 21,700-seat stadium was built to the north of the city.

But it argued that it was entitled to pull out because conditions linked to the deal had not been met.

The club described the ruling as a "kick in the teeth" and said it was likely to appeal.

Bristol's elected mayor, George Ferguson, described the judgement as "deeply disappointing" both for the club and for Bristol.

The independent said: "I've already spoken with Rovers chairman Nick Higgs and have offered him and the club my full support in finding a resolution... but we are very limited as to what we can do as a local authority."

The Sainsbury's deal was a key part of plans to move from the 12,000-capacity Memorial Stadium in Horfield, described in court as "old fashioned and rather dilapidated", into a new £40m ground to be built in Stoke Gifford.

A club spokesman said the League Two side was still "committed to building a new stadium to secure the club's future".

'In the doldrums'

The contract to buy the club's current stadium for £30m was signed in December 2011, but planning permission for a new supermarket on the site was not granted until January 2013 and was further delayed by judicial review.

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Image caption The Memorial Stadium was described as "old-fashioned and rather dilapidated"

At a six-day High Court hearing in May, Sainsbury's argued it had "lawfully terminated" the contract when planning conditions were not met before the "cut-off date" in the agreement.

But the club said there had been a "misunderstanding" about the significance of the cut-off date and argued the contract was still running, or had been terminated in breach of its terms.

On Monday, judge Mrs Justice Proudman ruled that "Sainsbury's must succeed" because the construction of a schedule to the agreement "seems like an insuperable barrier" to the club winning the case.

Bristol Rovers accused Sainsbury's of having "reneged on its promises to the local community to invest in the region". The supermarket said the judge had "made no findings of Sainsbury's acting in bad faith with the club".

A spokesman for the supermarket added: "We understand that this is a sensitive issue locally and that there will also be disappointment as a result of the court's decision today. We will continue to work with the local community via our existing Bristol stores."

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