Sharp End
When Saturday Comes|March 2018

Torquay United look destined for English football’s sixth tier amid increasing distrust of the motives of their owner, Clarke Osborne.

Tom Davies

While a poorly resourced team flounder at the foot of the National League, fears are being raised about Osborne’s company Gaming International, which took over in December 2016 when it called in loans to the previous owners, and which has a history of unrealised development projects and stadium demolitions.

GI’s takeover was accompanied by talk of selling their Torbay Council-owned Plainmoor ground for housing and building a new stadium on the edge of town, but neither planning permission nor funding has materialised for the latter, which has put Osborne’s track record in the spotlight. Sceptics point to as yet unfulfilled GI plans elsewhere, such as a speedway stadium redevelopment in Swindon, and the closure of greyhound and speedway tracks in Milton Keynes and Reading. Osborne was also a director of the company that evicted Bristol Rovers from Eastville in 1986. Fans have petitioned the council not to sell the ground without a replacement.

“Osborne claims the council are aligned with them [on a new stadium plan],” says Torquay United Supporters’ Trust vice-chair Robin Causley, “but if anything the council is with us. He has tightened his grip on the club and supporters are starting to come round to the idea of community ownership.”

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