THE beautiful game is to return to Andover’s Portway Stadium after a break of two years, following a unanimous vote by Test Valley Borough Council members.

They backed the idea of investing £200,000 into the new stadium and entering into a lease with Sparsholt College at a special meeting in Beech Hurst on Monday.

The new football team is to be called Andover Town FC and will be playing in the Wessex League with fixtures at Portway from the autumn.

Although agreed unanimously councillor Tony Hope wondered how secure the council’s investment would be over the 15 years during which the college had agreed to pay back the £200,000 through rental, backed by an indemnity.

“Is this set in stone?” he asked.

Chief executive Roger Tetstall said that with the college’s involvement the council had a contract with a “rock-solid tenant”.

Deputy leader Cllr Martin Hatley, said: “The whole thing is to the benefit of Andover – it is a good news story.

“It is also good for education as it is going to be used as a teaching facility for the football academy.”

Finance chief Peter Giddings said he was at the opening of the facility in the 1980s when Portway was launched in a “blaze of glory”, replacing the much-loved Walled Meadow ground.

“It is something that is badly needed in Andover and gives the town an identifiable football team and brings educational benefits,” he said.

The council report on the matter reveals that the council has incurred empty property rates to the tune of £5,300 a year for the time the facility has been left idle.