PLAYING home games away from the Kassam Stadium could lead to Oxford United supporters ‘deserting’ the club, Oxford City Council’s leader has warned.

Bob Price said the threat of the club moving highlighted how important it was for a deal on the ownership of the current ground to be reached.

It comes after United’s board of directors voiced its dismay at the slow progress of talks between stadium owner Firoz Kassam and supporters’ group Ox Vox, which wants to turn the ground into a community-owned facility.

The board called on Mr Kassam, Ox Vox and the city council to speed up the process or risk the club finding an alternative home.

Mr Price said: “Our role is to try to push things along a bit so they are brought to a conclusion rather than going on for months and months.

“We are very keen that the club does not move away from the city but that is for them and the fans to decide.

“It is not a very good idea because as you saw with Coventry City when they moved to Northampton many of the fans deserted the club.”

Coventry spent the 2013/14 season at Northampton Town’s Sixfields stadium following a dispute over rent.

The 1987 FA Cup winners had an average attendance of 10,000 the previous season, but crowds dropped to 2,300 at Sixfields.

In October the Oxford Mail revealed Ox Vox and Mr Kassam had held talks.

But United’s board said slow progress may mean they would have to lower their ambitions and undertake a ‘serious review of the playing budget and support of the academy.’

Ox Vox said: “We appreciate the sensible, reasoned and kind comments.

“Best for us to refrain from making any further comments.”

Th board’s statement has been criticised by some fans.

Mick Ramage said: “Fully understand the frustrations of the board, but is it helpful to openly criticise Ox Vox and Mr Kassam?”

Ed Bridges added: “A petulant and unnecessary response from the club.”