Salford City’s move to AJ Bell Stadium hit by council decision

Featured image credit: Bill Boaden/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size

Salford City’s proposed move to AJ Bell Stadium appears to have fallen through, with the League Two football club stating that Salford City Council intends to purchase the venue outright.

Salford City had joined forces with rugby union outfit Sale Sharks to submit a bid to buy the ground from the council. The Sharks share the stadium with rugby league team Salford Red Devils.

The Sharks and Salford City outlined their joint bid to buy the stadium back in September 2021. Any bid for the stadium would have required the Red Devils to find a new home.

The Red Devils and the Sharks have both played at the 12,000-capacity AJ Bell Stadium since it opened in 2012. The Red Devils’ rental agreement ends in 2023 and it has previously been reported that the club was considering a move to the Peninsula Stadium, which would have seen it swap grounds with Salford City.

In March, Salford City confirmed plans to continue playing at the 5,100-capacity Peninsula Stadium during the 2022-23 season amid ongoing talks regarding a move to AJ Bell Stadium. The club said at the time that “some work” still needed to be done to secure a move to AJ Bell Stadium.

In May, the Red Devils backed local businessman Sebastian Gerrard’s bid to acquire AJ Bell Stadium but it has now emerged that the council intends to purchase the venue outright.

In a statement released today (Tuesday), Salford City expressed its “surprise” at the development. The Manchester Evening News has reported that although the joint offer from Salford City and the Sharks met the asking price and was accepted, the deal is now off.

Salford City’s statement said: “As supporters are all aware we have been in talks with Salford City Council for 18 months to purchase the AJ Bell Stadium. However, we were informed in the last two weeks by Salford City Council that they will now purchase the stadium outright and that we wouldn’t be considered.

“Whilst this news came as a surprise to us, we will continue to monitor closely the progression of the purchase, but at this moment our immediate future is to remain at the Peninsula Stadium.”

Sharks chief executive Sid Sutton added: “We will continue to have a long-term home at our stadium, however we can confirm that following 18 months of discussions, our proposed bid to buy the stadium as part of a joint venture has been declined.

“We are now working very closely with Salford City Council to ensure we reach a robust agreement that allows Sale Sharks to both enhance and control the matchday experience for the benefit of our supporters, and benefit commercially from matchday activity.

“We have always maintained that taking control of the stadium is integral to the long-term future of Sale Sharks and that remains the case. But equally, we were clear that we wouldn’t proceed with any course of action until Salford Red Devils have secured a place to play. Salford City Council’s proposed agreement will enable this to happen while ensuring that the stadium remains the home of Sale Sharks.”

A council spokesperson told the MEN: “The council and Coscos (stadium company) have been in extensive negotiations with partners about the sale of the stadium – but unfortunately we have not received a proposal which satisfies our aspirations for this great community asset. We are now looking at other future options.

“It is important to note that we have been liaising closely with executives at Salford Red Devils and Sale Sharks who are fully briefed. We will provide further updates in the new year.”