York City today sounded the death knell on Bootham Crescent, its home for seven decades.

The ground's fate was effectively sealed in a bombshell document giving any new club owners notice to quit by the end of June.

Bootham Crescent Holdings (BCH), which owns the ground and other assets, is circulating the document to groups or individuals interested in taking over York City.

Unless new club owners can pay £4.5 million to acquire BCH, City must play football elsewhere from next season.

The document makes clear the most likely venue will be Huntington Stadium, home to York Wasps.

It reveals discussions have already been held with Cannons Leisure Management, which has a long lease of the complex from City of York Council.

Regardless of the future of Bootham Crescent, the sale blueprint also underlines the board's determination to close down the football club if new owners cannot be found.

It states the club has given "provisional notice" of its intention to resign from membership of the Football League at the end of the current season.

If no sale is agreed by the end of March - 82 days away - the club will confirm its resignation from the Football League on April 1, 2002.

York City chairman Douglas Craig today confirmed he had received "eight or nine" expressions of interest in the club.

"Of those, I believe two or possibly three are likely to be pursuing their interest a little further," he said.

With a new Crosby Homes housing development rapidly taking shape next door to Bootham Crescent, the city-centre ground is sure to attract interest from developers.

Today's body-blow punctured the euphoria of 48 hours ago when City fans proposed a Supporters' Trust to take control of the club.

The BCH document states the company will be prepared to contribute £1 million towards clearing the club's debts, and improving Huntington Stadium and the training ground should relocation go ahead.

But there will only be money towards those improvements if a bona fide supporters' group has a "significant holding in the new ownership of the football club".

Improvements are likely to be extensive if Huntington Stadium is to meet Football League requirements by next season.

Capacity must be raised from 3,246 to 6,000, and undercover seats from 861 to 2,000.

Turnstiles and floodlights would have to be improved, but all Bootham Crescent's fixtures and fittings would be made available "at no cost, other than the removal and re-fixing expenses".

BCH will give the training ground to a new owner for free.

The club's property in Grosvenor Terrace, used as a hostel for youth trainees, would be made available at a "reasonable rent".

Ryedale MP John Greenway, who is President of York City, said: "We need to find a huge injection of cash, which will be a massive mountain to climb.

"Relocation to Huntington Stadium is an option that can't be ruled out.

"I will not accept that the club is dead until the last possible moment."

City of York Council leader Rod Hills today said the latest developments must be looked at as a matter of urgency.

He said: "We need to see if there is any possible alternative stadium. Huntington has been mentioned and we have to look at that.

"I don't know if it fits the football league's criteria, and I don't know the situation with the current leasehold. We need to look at that as a matter of some urgency.

"Ideally I very much want to see York City stay at Bootham Crescent."

Liberal Democrat leisure spokesman Mick Bradley said: "It is an absolute disgrace that it could be lost and I am hoping York City's directors will rethink. The ground should stay with the club."

Anne McIntosh, Vale of York's Conservative MP and shadow secretary for sport, said: "York City is a cracking football club with a huge local following and I am watching developments very closely.

"It would be very sad to lose the Bootham ground, but it is not the first club to look at sites outside the city centre. It would be nice to stay, but I know the club has run into financial difficulties."

Updated: 14:49 Wednesday, January 09, 2002