THE make-up of Oxford United’s board could mean a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to build a world-class new home, according to managing director Niall McWilliams.

While the U’s met landlords Firoka last week in an attempt to improve a frosty relationship, alternatives to the Kassam Stadium, where their lease expires in 2026, are being explored.

McWilliams, pictured, told a fans’ forum last September they were looking at five potential sites for a ground.

Although a clear plan is yet to emerge, there is a feeling one of the biggest stumbling blocks – funding the development – may now be surmountable.

Earlier this month owner Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth appointed Anindya Bakrie to a board of directors alongside Erick Thohir, Horst Geicke and Zaki Nuseibeh.

While there have been plenty of issues under the ownership when it comes to paying routine bills on time, they have the combined resources to bring such a big project to life.

McWilliams said: “It’s not just about the club for me, it’s also about the city, the county – and as a county we want a stadium that is genuinely for community use.

“We want a world-class stadium we are all proud of and at this moment in time we’re in a position where we do have the financial backing to certainly explore those possibilities.

“This might be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Oxford United and the county to find a solution to this problem.”

He added: “It’s not only the financial means, but (the board have) the passion and drive to actually help the club out.

“We must never write off staying where we are, but in an ideal world that is what we have to aim for and I will never accept defeat on it.

“I cannot see how a county as big and as affluent as this when you look at this unbelievable business opportunity that we will not be able to find an alternative home in this county.”

With their ability to generate revenue at the Kassam Stadium severely limited, United have made a habit of running up seven-figure losses on an annual basis.

In that context an owner is needed to make up the difference.

The extent of that reliance was shown in March, when United did not have enough funds to pay the wages of staff when a payment from Asia was delayed in the banking system.

A new home which includes other revenue streams would reduce that dependence – and for McWilliams the model is 40 miles away in Buckinghamshire.

He said: “We know in reality that football stadia are very attractive business propositions if you have a conferencing centre or a hotel attached.

“I believe with the appropriate business model you can be sustainable.

“Look at the Milton Keynes model – the football club loses significant money but I think what happens is the other bits of the stadium generate money and subsidises the football club.

“In reality that’s where we want to be.

“We’ve got to become less reliant on our owners being prepared to fund a loss-making business.”

McWilliams is realistic enough to know others before him at United have tried and failed to find an answer, but believes it is achievable.

“The relationships with the councils are positive,” he said.

“But it’s not an easy situation to find a solution, because if it was, it would have been done well before my time.”