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United will we stand?

ONE SUPER-CLUB could be formed in Cambridge after it was confirmed that United and City have been holding discussions to merge.

The News can reveal that the two financially-stricken clubs have been in negotiations with a view to linking up as one in time for the start of NEXT season.
Merger talks: Citys Arthur Eastham
Merger talks: Citys Arthur Eastham

The implications for football in the town, and the surrounding area, could be huge, but with a lack of turnover and limited numbers of fans through the gates, both clubs are of the view that it could be the best way forward.

City, who formed in 1908, have large debts that they are struggling to sustain, and are in the process of selling Milton Road, which would be used to ease both clubs' financial problems.

United, founded in 1912, were forced to sell the Abbey Stadium to director John Howard's Bideawhile company this time last year in order to keep the club alive, but they have been fighting to maintain their status.

They went into administration during last season, with relegation to the Nationwide Conference following, and it was only the intervention of Sports Minister Richard Caborn MP that saved United in their battle with HM Customs & Revenue.

Early talks were held at the Abbey Stadium last week between the two boards about the joint-venture, which could lead to an AFC Cambridge competing in the 2006-07 season.

Cambridge City chairman Arthur Eastham said: "As far as Cambridge City is concerned, we cannot sustain football at this level because of the debt that the club is in. As a going concern, we are losing money on a monthly basis. We are looking at different options.

"We could attempt to carry on as we are, which would be extremely difficult, or we could ground share with another club.

"Then there is the possibility of a merger with another club and, to that end, we have had discussions last week with Cambridge United and we are going to meet again this week.

"For the first time, the two clubs' paths are crossing and there are enough good bits from each to put together and make one very decent club. But it is just one option and we are still pursuing other options."

If the merger went ahead, it is envisaged that the new club would play in the Nationwide Conference - assuming United are not promoted or relegated this season - at United's Abbey Stadium, until a new community stadium is built.

City's existing, successful youth and community set-up would be retained and would effectively replace United's academy, which has been disbanded.

Eastham said he was aware that some fans would be unhappy about a merger, but added: "We will make sure that if a merger did go ahead, it would be palatable for most people."

United's financial director Nick Pomery confirmed: "We held a meeting last week at the instigation of Cambridge City chairman Arthur Eastham to discuss ground-sharing and some co-operation on youth policy," said Pomery.

"During those discussions, which were wide ranging on how the clubs could co-operate, a merger was one of the options which came up. We felt it was something that was worth having another meeting about and it will be held shortly."

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20 December 2005

First appeared in the Cambridge Evening News
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