THE quest to provide York City Football Club with a long-term future received a massive shot in the arm today after a crucial agreement was thrashed out involving all the major parties.

The breakthrough after months of uncertainty will eventually see York City moving to a significantly redeveloped Huntington Stadium.

However, the club is not expected to relocate to the Monks Cross site until the start of the 2004-05 campaign.

A major plank of today's deal, which has yet to be signed and sealed, sees the club given a stay of execution to remain at Bootham Crescent for at least another season while Huntington is brought up to League standards.

Ground owners Bootham Crescent Holdings, with Persimmon's blessing, have agreed to tear up the lease which would have seen City evicted from their home of the past eight decades in June.

They have also agreed to let City play at Bootham Crescent next season free of charge.

The planned redevelopment of Huntington is described as 'substantial'.

Under the agreement announced today, the removal of the running track is being considered. New stands, complete with corporate hospitality boxes, will also be built.

The renovations will see the capacity of Huntington raised from its current 3,200 maximum to exceed the minimum Football League requirement of a 6,000 capacity.

According to today's statement, the costs of the redevelopment have been investigated and all the parties are confident the necessary funding will be forthcoming.

BCH and Persimmon, who have a conditional agreement to buy Bootham Crescent, have agreed to provide 'substantial monies' towards the redevelopment costs.

The Evening Press understands their offer of help could be as much as £1million with any money left over after the stadium has been improved given to the football club.

It is believed around £2million would be needed to complete the necessary building work but it is expected the remaining funding will come in the form of grants from bodies like the Football Foundation.

It is anticipated the football club will not have to make any significant contributions to the development costs, nor will the club have to fund the necessary legal and professional costs to turn today's blueprint into reality.

City of York Council, who earlier this week agreed to grant the football club a ten-year lease to reside at Huntington to satisfy League demands, said it will also look to provide Park & Ride facilities at the redeveloped site.

Significantly, planning applications for the redevelopment of and around the Monks Cross stadium site will run in 'parallel' with Persimmon's planning application to build 93 homes on Bootham Crescent.

As part of today's agreement the Supporters' Trust, who have always maintained the club should continue playing at Bootham Crescent until an alternative stadium is available, will effectively withdraw their opposition to Persimmon's planning application.

Under the terms of the deal, the Trust and the future board of York City agree to use their 'best endeavours' to support the parallel planning application.

It has also been agreed all the parties will use their 'best endeavours' to ensure Huntington is redeveloped in time for the 2004-2005 campaign,

Trust spokesperson Sophie McGill said the Trust board agreed the deal was in the 'best interests' of the fans' group and City as they try to resolve the club's ground problem.

Trust vice-chair Steve Beck said the agreement 'will help save City'.

Prior to today's announcement, there was genuine fear the Minstermen could be left with nowhere to play at the end of this season, even if the Trust's take-over offer for City is sanctioned by creditors on Monday.

In a statement, the Trust said it was keenly aware Bootham Crescent was 'cherished dearly' by supporters.

However, the fans' body said at the moment there is no 'clarity or certainty' that an alternative stadium to Bootham Crescent other than Huntington could be developed within the next few years in light of planning and funding requirements.

York City reserves are in action tonight away to Boston United in the Avon Insurance League division one (east), ko 7pm.

Included are midfielder Stephen Brackstone and defender Gary Hobson, recovering from illness and injury respectively.

Youth team goalkeeper David Stockdale is expected to start tonight's game instead of Jon Collinson after his recent call-ups to the first team squad.

City's second string currently lie in fifth place, one point above their hosts, and need a win to hope to claw back leaders Hull's seven point advantage.

City reserves (from): Stockdale, Okoli, Wise, Hobson, O'Kane, Brackstone, Wood, Wilding, Stewart, Arthur, Mathie, Anderson, Ashcroft, Coad, Collinson, Baynes.

Updated: 11:08 Wednesday, March 12, 2003