THE chairman of Barnet FC has warned the club is being “escorted out of the borough by the back door” if Saracens Rugby Football Club plans to develop a stadium go ahead.

Last week the Times Series revealed Barnet Council had been in talks with the rugby giants about redeveloping the Copthall Stadium site in Mill Hill as their home venue.

However, the site had previously been a target for Barnet, who had plans for a 10,000 seater stadium turned down by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in 2001.

Club chairman Tony Kleanthous said he was "extremely disappointed but not surprised" to learn about the talks from the Times Series rather than council officials themselves.

He said: “Barnet Council has always been aware that this is our preferred site for a new stadium in the borough up to our recent talks and in my sixteen years as chairman they have offered us no other alternative."

Last week council leader Lynne Hillan said the stadium is in need of investment and added the council would “discuss any proposal” around the site.

Mr Kleanthous added: “If the council are supporting and looking favourably on the Saracens proposal it sends out a straightforward and clear message to our football club that they would prefer having them in the borough rather than us.

“This is quite a blow but nothing at Barnet Council really surprises any more.”

He said the club had spent “hundreds of thousands of pounds” on trying to relocate to Copthall from their current Underhill home.

“The last Copthall inquiry revealed that with some reduction in the footprint and improved transport links we can build a Football League standard stadium on the 150-acre site,” he added.

“However, the council has refused to make the site available to us and its sad that they are now looking to invite others into the borough whilst escorting us out via the back door.

"We were asked to give the council time to find a solution to our relocation needs and not to put in a further plan for Copthall- although it was made clear to us that if anyone was to build anything on the site it would be Barnet FC, who have played in the area for the past 100 years and are a community club.

“We did as asked and have remained silent on the issue for some five years now and have made no waves.

“We don't intend to now but this latest development has reopened old wounds and left us with the impression that the London Borough of Barnet are just stringing us along again.

“I’m now passed getting angry with them, I just think it’s all very sad for the thousands of kids in the borough to which we provide a home and identity.”

However, Councillor Lynne Hillan, the leader of Barnet Council, has rejected the claims they have not supported the club.

She said: “I am disappointed by Tony’s comments - Barnet FC’s proposals for Copthall stadium were approved by the council’s planning committee but overturned by the then Secretary of State.

“We took it as far as we could. I am totally supportive of the football team and to keeping the club in the borough, but it is up to Tony to make a proposal.”