A NEW dawn for York City Football Club was heralded today as motor-racing boss John Batchelor completed his takeover of the Minstermen.

The news ends months of uncertainty surrounding the club and comes just 16 days before City would have faced certain oblivion.

Outgoing chairman Douglas Craig had warned that, had the sale not gone through by the end of this month, City would have confirmed their provisional notice to resign from membership of the Football League on April 1.

The club said in a statement: "York City are pleased to announce that John Batchelor has today been appointed chairman of the club.

"There will now be a transition period during which the club will be re-organising the board. The club are looking forward to a fresh approach and a renewed impetus."

Mr Batchelor told the Evening Press: "I am tempted to say I am over the moon, but I am absolutely delighted and very excited. It is a fulfilment of another ambition."

Mr Craig said: "I am pleased that we appear to have ensured the future well-being of the football club, that was always the firm intention of the board."

Significantly, the deal means City will continue to play their home games at Bootham Crescent, in the short-term at least.

Graham Ibbetson, chairman of the York City Supporters' Trust, hailed today as a great day for York.

He said: "The true supporters of York City have now helped deliver a brighter future for professional sport in York.

"We thank John Batchelor for his leadership and efforts over recent weeks and we now look forward to working with him to help run the club.

"The club needs a massive culture change such that in the future it works more closely with the supporters, the community, the council, local schools and businesses - a club that the fans and the City can be proud of."

The Evening Press will continue to be City's main sponsors.

Daphne Ellis, managing director of York & County Press, which publishes the Evening Press, said: "We are delighted with the news. We are looking forward to continuing our York City sponsorship and working closely with John Batchelor who has lots of new ideas for the club."

Mr Batchelor, 43, who has vowed to make City "the most unusual team" in the Football League, was unable to confirm whether he had met the £4.5 million asking price set by Craig.

"Every single detail is subject to a confidentiality clause," he said. However, the deal does include both club and ground, ending fears the Minstermen could be left homeless.

He was able to reveal one of the major players behind his take-over as Richard West, a former commercial director of Williams Grand Prix.

Mr West, 45, is the administrator for the British Touring Car Championships, in which Mr Batchelor competes.

He is currently abroad on business but will be taking his place in the Bootham Crescent boardroom soon.

Other names behind the deal are expected to be unveiled shortly, but Mr Batchelor has pledged to give two seats in the boardroom to the York City Supporters' Trust.

The legal complexities of the deal mean that outgoing chairman Mr Craig and the club's other directors - Barry Swallow and Colin Webb, directors of both the football club and owners Bootham Crescent Holdings, and Josh Easby, a director of just the club - may remain at the club in the short term. John Quickfall, the only other director of BCH, stepped down at the end of last year.

Mr Batchelor said the remaining quartet's roles would stay in "non-executive capacities" during the transitional period of the takeover. He has maintained a new stadium is central to his long-term vision for the club and he hopes to make public some artists' impressions soon.

Talks are being held over a site with the City of York Council area.

Mr Batchelor said his first priority was to halt financial losses and he admitted "exorbitant" player wages remained football's biggest problem. That could lead to a salary cap at Bootham Crescent.

A major sponsorship deal will be announced next week, which will be linked with Mr Batchelor's BTCC racing team.

The team, which had its first day of pre-season testing at Silverstone yesterday, has now changed its name to Team B&Q York City Racing.

Russell Greenfield, of York Wasps, who with John Stabler was the other leading bidder for the club, said he was "absolutely delighted" by today's news.

"I'm very pleased. It's exciting for York City. Their offer was obviously better than ours, and I wish them all the very best of luck."

Ryedale MP and York City president John Greenway said: "It's very exciting for the city and surrounding area. There is the potential for an exciting future for the football club in York." John Shannon, former chairman of York Civic Trust and a supporter of York City for more than 60 years, said: "It's very good news. I'm very pleased."

He said: "I hope their new ground is well within the city limits, as near as possible to where they are now."

The news was welcomed by City of York Council's executive member for heritage and leisure, Councillor Alan Jones, who said: "I am delighted that the sale of the club is now complete and we can now all work together to put York City on a firm footing for the future, after weeks of uncertainty.

Updated: 11:22 Friday, March 15, 2002