Back in March 2011 I attended a Cabinet Resources Committee. At this meeting the disposal of Barnet Copthall to Saracens was being discussed. I raised a question about the lease and why it was being offered for 99 years on a peppercorn rent and seemed to be against the advice of officers. It struck me at the time that Saracens were getting a highly valuable site worth well in excess of £10 million for nothing so long as they maintain the facilities, a contract which GLL had and which has now been terminated (we don't know what penalty Barnet had to pay to terminate this contract).
Today Saracens have announced a multi-million pound naming rights deal changing the name of Copthall to Allianz Park.. I have no issue with Saracens doing the naming rights deal because their objective is to maximise the value of their new stadium. My disappointment is addressed fairly and squarely at our Councillors who saw fit to give away a valuable community asset for a pittance without taking specific legal advice on such an eventuality. Their haste at the time was driven by a desire to get shot of Copthall whatever the cost. If there had been a revenue sharing agreement or a commercial exploitation clause then Barnet might be sitting on a windfall of a couple of million pounds.
Interestingly, at the same meeting, the One Barnet DRS Business case was being tabled and I asked a number of questions about that as well. I hope that for the sake of every single ratepayer in Barnet that the undue haste and lack of foresight on the Saracens deal is not mirrored in the DRS outsourcing deal. Sadly I have absolutely no confidence in the commercial aptitude of Barnet Council and I remain terrified that the One Barnet outsourcing contract will be a commercial disaster.