Council takes decision on future of City’s Community Stadium

Salford City Council has agreed a decision to take full ownership of the Salford Community Stadium on 13 February, with future impacts for rugby and sport and leisure across the city and regeneration of the area.

The decision to take full ownership will provide the council with full control of the stadium and its assets (currently Salford City Council owns 50%), including car parking areas and training pitches, with the development land around the site which will give the council the ability to shape the future of the area.

Group of people at community stadium

This is a decision, subject to contracts, that the council believes paves a bright future for a key regeneration site known as the western gateway, which is also a growth location site for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Mayor Andy Burnham, developing as part of Greater Manchester’s recently negotiated Devolution Trailblazer deal with Government and associated Single Settlement.

Detailed negotiations with the stadium company joint owner and stadium stakeholders, along with detailed legal and financial due diligence, now are bringing the final steps close to completion.

The stadium, which is home to Salford Red Devils and Sale Sharks, officially opened in 2012 and has already hosted the Rugby League World Cup in 2013 and will be one of the venues for the Women’s Rugby World Cup on 2025.

City Mayor wearing a rugby top and wooly hat and holding a rugby ball with stadium stand in background

Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “I am delighted that we are nearing conclusion of months of painstaking discussions.

“After being a joint owner, the council is set to take the reins and full control of the stadium and surrounding site.

“This will enable the council to deliver its aims and aspirations agreed earlier this year as detailed in the Strategic Statement of Intent, while also moving us forward in delivering the original intentions of decision(s) taken back in 2009/10. This includes securing the council’s long-term interests by controlling future redevelopment and regeneration of the stadium facilities and adjacent development land.”

Mayor Dennett continued: “We’ll be able to recommit to deliver the initial vision of a community stadium for the city and its people. The future will be grounded in a new sports & leisure and rugby strategy, with links to activity, culture and health and wellbeing and fair access and opportunities. These benefits will go far beyond activities on the pitch, with full development of the site creating an anticipated 790 new jobs, delivering £28million worth of social value and attracting £65 million of private sector investment. 

“The city’s heritage and rugby history will be safe now for future Salfordians. William Webb Ellis was born in Salford and we’re proud that the stadium is home to two important clubs, Salford Red Devils RLFC and Sale Sharks. We have celebrated the 150th historical and cultural contribution made by Salford Red Devils RLFC and the Salford Red Devils Foundation and championed Sale Sharks and the contribution the team has made locally since their move to the city in 2012. We are now looking to the next historical milestone and how this acquisition can continue to support both clubs.

“In a mission close to my heart, Salford Red Devils RLFC will retain their position playing in the City of Salford, which is why the Community Stadium was built in the first place all those years ago, along with it being a place to call home for Salford Reds and Sale Sharks.

“We have exciting plans to engage fans, community groups & grass-roots rugby clubs, schools, education providers and residents with the City’s Community Stadium, along with Sports England, the Rugby Football League (RFL), Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Government, especially the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the work currently being undertaken around the future of rugby within the UK.

"Both codes are thriving in the city at a grassroots level with teams including league clubs Folly Lane, Salford City Roosters, Langworthy Reds and Cadishead Rhinos as well as our other professional club Swinton Lions. The union game is represented by local clubs at De La Salle, Eccles and Broughton, combined represent the positive growth of rugby in Salford.

“There is huge potential to use rugby to increase participation rates in sport and as a vehicle to contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of local people of all ages through all forms of the game and the wider activities of the Red Devils charitable foundation, providing new skills and aspirations. The rugby league club and the foundation serve the city as a community club and already deliver a huge range of initiatives, including SEND activity provision for children during school holidays and as an organisation, has the power to inspire, creating a healthier, more active community.  

“The realisation of the City of Salford’s Community Stadium is an important aspect of our cultural, heritage, sporting and leisure assets within the City and builds on decisions the Salford City Council has already taken to land the Royal Horticultural Society’s fifth National Garden (RHS:Bridgewater) and the BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra within the City, in addition to delivering our much loved Lowry Theatre & Art Gallery back in 2000, who are an vital cultural institution within our city, also looking after and curating the LS Lowry collection within the City and through-out the world.” 

City Mayor with two people by rugby stand

Managing Director of Salford Red Devils, Paul King added: “This is certainly a big step in the right direction, and hopefully this can now lead to a swiftly agreed deal.

“I can’t understate how important the conclusion of the deal is for the club. We’ve stretched as best as we can for as long as we can to get even to this point today, and once the agreement gets over the line, it really does give us access to some transformative opportunities. Not only are there commercial benefits waiting for us, but we can finally apply for the matched funding pots that are available to us through the Crowdfunder.

“Whilst bringing forward a realisation of a shared vision based on what the stadium was originally built for, an agreement allows us to become a different Salford Red Devils - a secure, and self-sustaining Salford Red Devils that thrives within the City of Salford.”

Tony Sutton, the Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “Salford City Council’s full ownership of the Salford Community Stadium is excellent news for the Salford Red Devils club, and therefore for the many community groups and young people with whom they engage directly, as well as through the work of their community Foundation. The city has been associated with Rugby League since 1896, when the Salford club joined the Northern Union, and the sport is therefore embedded deeply in the community and its history. The RFL has been delighted to engage with Salford City Council and the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham throughout a long and complicated process, and we will continue to do so as we work with Mayor Dennett and his team to continue to grow the numbers of people playing Rugby League in the region. We both thank and congratulate them for this positive outcome.”

Sale Sharks Chief Executive Paul Smith said: “The future of the Salford Community Stadium has been a protracted saga that has caused a huge amount of uncertainty both within the club and among our fanbase for too long.

“While there is still work to do, this announcement hopefully begins to draw a line under the questions around stadium ownership and allows us all to start working together to create a real hub for rugby, across both codes, in the north.

“There is a huge opportunity here to build a really special venue to support our community and develop top level sport in the region.”

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Date published
Tuesday 13 February 2024

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