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“Buying the AJ Bell stadium will safeguard future of 150-year-old Rugby League club”

The future of the 150-year-old Salford Red Devils Super League club and the city’s rugby league heritage will be safeguarded if the city council takes total control of its stadium.

The future of the 150-year-old Salford Red Devils Super League club and the city’s rugby league heritage will be safeguarded if the city council takes total control of its stadium, says Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett.

Salford Red Devils Super League club

This is according to Salford city mayor Paul Dennett as he gave an update on the complex negotiations taking place which may ultimately see the local authority buying Peel’s 50 per cent stake in the stadium, its two training pitches and the car park.

The property giant wants to exit the joint venture arrangement, although the company and the city council will still own the land surrounding the facility.

City of Salford Community Stadium

The city council and Peel entered into a joint venture in 2009/10 to build what is now known as the City of Salford Community Stadium (Coscos), which is also shared by Sale Sharks rugby union club.

Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett

Mr Dennett told I Love MCR: “Salford Reds have been doing work in our city for many many years and they are inextricably linked with our city.

“For me, when you look at the original decision back in 2009/10 it spoke to all of that.

“What we’re trying to do with regard to the city council considering buying the remaining 50pc of the stadium is to think about how we can secure that future for more than 150 years.

Safeguarding the City’s Rugby League Heritage

“Do I think it would be secured if we sold the stadium?

“No, I do not. Because who’s to say whether or not someone bought that stadium and didn’t share our values and beliefs about the importance of this 150-year-old institution in the city of Salford?

“It also safeguards the future of the regeneration of that part of the city as well, because it gives us far more skin in the game.”

Mr Dennett continued: “When we originally embarked on this, the idea was we would build the stadium, the council would finance it, there would be working capital put into the stadium for a number of years and the land around it would be sold and developed and would then pay back the development finance – the money the council borrowed to build it.”

He said that the time it has taken to develop the land had been impacted early on by the financial crisis which started in 2008, the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis, and rising interest rates, coupled with inflation.

However, he said so far 240 jobs had been delivered alongside £ 30 million of infrastructure and £18.45m worth of social value.

The mayor continued: “Once the land has been developed, there will be 719 new jobs, £65m of private sector investment, gross development value of more than £90m, bring in £1.2m of business rates per annum – income for the local authority, which is really important when you think about the fact we’ve lost £240m a year since austerity started under the national government [in 2010].

“Bringing in business rates helps to protect jobs and services for the local authority and, once it’s been delivered, we will have hoped to create £28m worth of social value.”

Currently, Aldi and the eatery Barley Farm are on site and other adjacent pieces of land have been sold and would be developed ‘in due course’, said Mr Dennett.

Mr Dennett spoke about a new economic model where ownership [by the council] is ‘really important’.

“That’s why we’re building council houses again,” he said. “The market fundamentally has failed. The role of local government for me isn’t just about commissioning and contracting services from the market. It’s actually about actively delivering those yourself directly, in Salford – in-sourcing.

“It’s also not about just flogging off land and property to deal with the impact of Tory austerity or to facilitate market growth, which are increasingly international global phenomena.

“We also want to ensure that we protect our civic institutions. And I would argue that one of them is Salford Reds.”

Meanwhile, Mr Dennett spoke of a city-wide ‘rugby strategy’ [for both league and union codes of the sport]

“I think it’s really important to do justice to the original decision that was taken back in 2009/10,” he said. “We want to solidify what happens from here on in as to what happens to the stadium and the stadium’s rugby.

“We said this was as a community stadium when we took the decision. We’ve got to deliver on that ambition.

“We do that by putting a rugby strategy in place, establishing a rugby forum, getting all partners in the city behind it, and aligning it to all the work we’re doing on health and wellbeing, tackling obesity and the importance of sports within schools.

“That’s what I think will help galvanise this agenda.”

At the heart of Salford for 150 years

A spokesperson for Salford Red Devils said: “The club has been at the heart of the Salford community for 150 years, and with the recent transition to fan ownership we have now placed the community at the heart of the club.

“A council deal securing our future at the stadium enables us to continue the work that we carry out within our area as well as to develop it further; enthusing our young people and providing an opportunity and positive pathway through our wonderful sport.

“Sports stadia have a history and trend of being sold and leveraged basely and the council’s efforts to buy the remaining 50pc of the stadium would ensure that the City of Salford Community Stadium remains a key component of the Salford community. “

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