ROSYTH Football Club are fearful that not having a home of their own would leave them with "no real identity" that could be "catastrophic" for the community.

For almost three years, the team has been without a permanent facility after agreeing with Fife Council to terminate their lease at Recreation Park, on Admiralty Road.

That came after the council, in 2016, accepted an offer to sell the land to allow for the development of a Lidl supermarket.

As part of the deal, the developer, Mactaggart and Mickel, was to provide the club with a like-for-like grass pitch, changing facilities, fencing and parking, which was to be situated at the Fleet Grounds.

Rosyth, who became a senior Scottish club at the beginning of the current season when they joined the East of Scotland League, have been using the all-weather pitch at the Fleet Grounds for games, which is leased by the South West Fife Community Sports Partnership (SWFSP) from the council.

However, the club estimate that using the facility to play costs them between £4,000-£5,000 per year – with opportunities to bring in additional income, in non-COVID times, restricted as a result of not having their own venue.

In February of last year, Mactaggart and Mickel applied to remove the condition within the planning application for the proposed Lidl and instead make a "developer contribution" of £175,000 to the council but this was knocked back by members of the council's central and west area committee in November.

Although Mactaggart and Mickel have increased their offer, the club are now concerned that they could be "shoehorned" into a community-use facility there that they say would not meet their requirements, or those of the East of Scotland League, after it was announced that the new Inverkeithing High School would be built at the Fleet Grounds.

Russell Craig, on behalf of the club, recently held a meeting with Rosyth councillors and representatives from the council over the issue and presented them with a business proposal for a 99-year sub-lease of the existing Fleet Grounds pitch from the partnership.

They have suggested using a monetary contribution from Mactaggart and Mickel to upgrade the facility, which the partnership would continue to run, while engaging with the Scottish Football Association to ensure it meets the required standard for the senior team.

Mr Craig explained: "We have submitted a proposal recently to Fife Council that, not only gives us the park we were promised all along, but it was also an opportunity to further involve 300 kids that currently play underneath the Rosyth FC banner.

"Not only that, it allowed the upgrading of a current facility that is currently in Rosyth that would benefit the local community too. That would also secure the development of the Lidl in Rosyth at our old park. We don't want anyone to feel it's us that's a stumbling block here; we have driven this for years, and tried for years to get to a satisfactory conclusion.

"However, it just appears to be stumbling block after stumbling block. We're not wanting anything more than what we've always been told we're going to get.

"For us, leaving the facility back in 2018 at the request of Fife Council, that was under the provision that a new shop, which would generate jobs for the local community, would be built but, not only that, we would get a like-for-like facility built for us.

"We are now two-and-a-bit years down the line and we are still potentially talking about the opportunity of maybe going back to our site, which was recently raised at the meeting. It doesn't really coincide with our vision of the club as a whole, including the kids' stuff.

"We feel as though we're going to be shoehorned into a high school facility which, not only ourselves, but the SFA and sportscotland have raised concerns about, a senior football club playing their football in a high school facility.

"There's concerns there as to whether or not it's suitable."

He continued: "The proposal we submitted is working alongside the South West Fife Partnership, working alongside sportscotland, working alongside the SFA, and what it would generate, I think, would be a tremendous development opportunity for the local community.

"We've spoken to local councillors who are in agreement, however, every time we go back to the council, it's immediately rebuffed.

"Ultimately, it will leave us with no real identity of a home in the local community. Going back to the history of Rosyth – which is incredible when you think about it, the people that have been involved in Rosyth football over the years – to lose that in a local community I think would be catastrophic.

"It's financially costing us approximately £4,000 to £5,000 a year to currently play our home games at the Fleet Grounds. We've had no financial support; if it wasn't for the generosity of our sponsors and our local community in relation to fundraising events that we've done, we would be struggling.

"That's what we had at Recreation Park. It had a function hall, it had all our equipment there, we had our storage containers – we were an in-built, functioning football club within the local community.

"They're offering this as an option, however, we can't see how it works. Yes, it gives us a park, but it doesn't give us a facility, and it certainly doesn't give us the opportunities that we had previously in relation to fundraising etcetera."

The club have received support from the town's councillors, with the SNP's Sharon Green-Wilson claiming that the council had "blindsided" them.

"Whilst the whole community welcomes the investment for a new school, Rosyth FC have not been treated well," she said.

"They have been left with no home and no funding. This is an organisation with 30 years' heritage under their belt and an identity that is part of the fabric of Rosyth. Hundreds of children have and will benefit from the club’s voluntary work and it is they who will suffer in terms of health and wellbeing.

"I hoped the council had moved beyond such David and Goliath scenarios."

Labour's Andrew Verrecchia noted that, while it is an "enormously complex situation involving many stakeholders", there is a "common goal" to see the Lidl store built and Rosyth FC "flourish alongside the South West Fife Community Sports Partnership at the Fleet Grounds".

"The recent announcement that the replacement high school is to be located at the Fleet Grounds is a real boost for us and it is important to stress that this particular issue does not jeopardise that decision," he commented.

"However, it would be a real shame if the football club was to be an unintended casualty of this positive development.

"The planning permission granted to the developers who wish to build the Lidl store clearly states that they are obliged to provide replacement facilities for Rosyth FC and it is my wish that they would simply fulfil their legal obligation.

"The decision to site the new school at the Fleet Grounds has complicated matters somewhat but that should not prevent us from seeing a satisfactory outcome for all parties.

"Rosyth FC are to be commended for their determination and commitment to this project, Russell’s proposal must now be looked at by Fife Council to see if what he proposes is realistic and it is disappointing to discover that they have not done so before now.

"We have a commitment from them that they will have done so by the time we meet again in mid-March."

Conservative Tony Orton, who submitted a motion that went before the South and West Fife area committee yesterday (Wednesday) that "no work shall commence on the development of the retail store which will preclude, prevent or limit the use of the existing football pitch until a signed, binding contract has been submitted to the council that demonstrates the replacement pitch will be constructed", noted: "I think Rosyth Football Club have been very badly treated. They didn't terminate their lease, they were asked to terminate their lease by Fife Council.

"In my opinion, I would prefer to see the planning application for the replacement pitch built by the developers to go ahead.

"What we would like to see is what was proposed in the planning application, and that is that the sports partnership leases the land that is to the south of the present all-weather pitch, and that the developer honours their planning requirement to build a replacement football facility, including a pavilion."

Steven Stewart, of the SWFSP, said: "We've worked fairly hard in the past year or so trying to support Rosyth Recreation to find a solution to this; not only offering the support to Rosyth seniors but also looking for that solution for Fife Council as well.

"I think, quite clearly, SWFSP does support a joined-up approach to finding a resolution to this whole thing, and that's what we're in the process of doing."

When approached by the Press, the SFA told us that their East Region staff had provided club development support, as well as advice on facility development, while sportscotland were approached for comment.

Previously in November, when Rosyth FC raised concerns over the future if no new pitch was provided, they stated: "Under Scottish planning policy, the loss of an outdoor sports facility should be replaced either by a new facility of comparable or greater benefit for sport or by the upgrading of an existing outdoor sports facility which maintains or improves the overall playing capacity in the area. This is the case with the Admiralty Road pitch in Rosyth.

"sportscotland is not satisfied that the current application provides adequate detail on the proposed management structure for a new or upgraded facility and is therefore unable to support the proposal as it stands."

Fife Council senior manager Alan Paul confirmed that they were aware of the need for the club to secure a home ground, commenting: "We're in discussions with the club and other local stakeholders about proposals for Fleet Grounds."

A spokesman for Mactaggart and Mickel added: "We remain committed to finding a solution for all parties and have increased our financial offer to the council to go towards the cost of a replacement pitch for Rosyth FC."