SAINSBURY’S has underwritten half of the £6million Southend United must pay as part of a legal agreement for building its new stadium at Fossetts Farm.

The supermarket giant has already bailed out the struggling club by paying a £2.1million tax bill last November to save it from a winding up order.

Sainsbury’s was previously described as an “enabling developer”, with its planned new supermarket on the club’s current site at Roots Hall helping fund the move to the new 22,000 seater stadium.

Now its involvement is becoming even more apparent with the company named alongside Blues chairman Ron Martin as the applicant for the new stadium.

Southend Council’s chief planning officer Andrew Meddle said in the report: “Since the scheme was approved, the relationship between the applicants has changed and Sainsbury’s is involved in not only the redevelopment of the Roots Hall, but also the development of the stadium at Fossetts Farm.

“This should offer members greater comfort as to the deliverability of the development and the Section 106 contributions.”

In a report to a special meeting of Southend Council’s development control committee, the Blues and Sainsbury’s are asking for more time to pay some of the £6million towards town centre regeneration, a condition of planning permission.

£3m will be guaranteed by Sainsbury’s and this will be paid by 2012.

The other £3m will be paid either five years after the completion of Fossetts Farm retail park or the completion of the redevelopment of the London Road Sainsbury’s site, whichever happens sooner.

A previous section 106 agreement meant the council would have received the whole £6million, but only if and when the retail park at Fossetts Farm was completed.

Sainsbury’s and the club have warned without this change the scheme would no longer be viable, because of the state of the economy. Anna Waite, Southend councillor responsible for planning Anna Waite, said: “The first £3million is guaranteed by Sainsbury’s and we will start to get some of the money sooner. We will have £3million in advance and it gives us more security and more confidence.

“It still needs the Prospects site (which will allow access to the new supermarket) to work, but with Sainsbury’s fully on board we should have some certainty about delivery on the football stadium.”

If the council agrees the change to the payments at a special meeting on April 13, officers have been assured the remaining issues with the redevelopment of Roots Hall in particular buyin nearby Prospects College site will be “speedily pursued”.

The Blues are in the High Court the day after the meeting to face another winding up order over unpaid tax debts of £410,000.