THE SIMMERING row between The New Saints and Shropshire Council has exploded into open warfare that looks certain to be played out in the courtroom.

The council has already announced it plans to take legal action to recoup the £80,000 it says it is owed by the football club.

The New Saints have always insisted the money – used to build a stand at The Venue to make the ground acceptable for Champions League matches – was a grant.

Under the scheme, the club would place money into a fund to help finance projects identified by the Oswestry Economic Board – but when the board was disbanded, the mechanics for repaying any money was lost. And paperwork sent from the council – and seen by the Advertizer – insists any repayments would be voluntary.

Saints chairman Mike Harris this week said he had no intention of backing down in the legal row.

“We have taken our own legal advice and we believe, if it goes to court, we will win,” said Mr Harris.

“This is all so pointless – all we wanted was an apology from the council for blackening our name, and that offer was refused.

“When we win in court – and, with the paperwork we hold regarding the grant, we are very confident – it won’t be the end of the matter.

“We will want damages from the council for what it has put us through. Its actions have damaged my reputation, that of the club, the chief operating officer Ian Williams and our finance people. I won’t take that lying down.

“The reputational damages would be immense.

“How much damages would we seek? It would run into hundreds of thousands of pounds – maybe even as much as a million.

“This isn’t fair on the taxpayers of Shropshire. It is their money the officers and councillors of Shropshire Council are playing with, not their own. Just taking this to court will bring a hefty legal bill.

“I expect, when this is over and we have won, for the chief executive and members of the cabinet to stand down. That would be only fair on the citizens of Shropshire.”

And Mr Harris – a millionaire businessman who runs a string of companies – said a knock-on from the row would be he would create no more new jobs in Shropshire.

“Why would I want to?” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the council is not fit to work with businesses interested in enterprise creation. I’d rather work with more supportive councils, like Powys and Welshpool.”