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Council agrees to hand over John Smith’s Stadium shares to clubs

Featured image credit: Neil Turner/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size

Kirklees Council has agreed to sell its shares in Kirklees Stadium Development Limited (KSDL), the company that manages John Smith’s Stadium, to venue tenants Huddersfield Town and Huddersfield Giants.

The council holds a 40% share in the company, with Championship football club Town holding the same amount. The Giants rugby league team holds a 20% stake.

A meeting was held yesterday (Wednesday) to discuss the future ownership structure of the stadium after it emerged last week that there were fears KSDL could fall into administration.

In recent years, the operating company has faced challenging trading conditions and partners have held discussions about putting John Smith’s Stadium on a firmer financial footing.

A recommendation for a new ownership model was proposed to the council that would see the council transfer its stake to the clubs. Councillors agreed to the recommendation yesterday and a new ownership model will now be explored.

It is hoped the move will bring investment into the 24,141-capacity stadium, which opened in 1993. The council would retain ownership of the stadium site under any of the proposed scenarios.

Graham Turner, Kirklees Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “The station to stadium corridor in Huddersfield has huge economic potential. The masterplan gives shape to our ambition and sets out how we can bring high-quality jobs and economic opportunities to the town.

“At the heart of those plans is the stadium. A new ownership model could secure its future as well as going a long way to unlocking the wider economic potential of the surrounding area.”

A joint statement from the council, Town and the Giants added: “The stadium is at the heart of our community. Our clubs mean so much to people across Huddersfield and well beyond.

“But if the stadium is going to serve the community for the future, it needs investment and a financial platform that’s sustainable in the long term. All partners are working closely together to find a way forward that suits everyone, especially supporters and future generations of fans.

“There’s a lot of detailed and complex issues to consider and a range of options open to us. But all partners are committed to maintaining the stadium as the heart and soul of Huddersfield’s sporting heritage.”

In April, Town chief executive Dean Hoyle revealed that the club was in negotiations with the council and the Giants over the long-term ownership structure of the stadium.

Last week, the Huddersfield Examiner reported that the stadium requires between £8m (€9.1m/$9.7m) and £10m worth of renovations over the next 10 years to address a “backlog” of maintenance issues. This is designed to extend the stadium’s life until 2050 but the majority of work is required to be completed over five years.

The council in March backed the formation of a Community Trust to provide a £13m bail out for KSDL. However, Town didn’t agree to the proposal and it ultimately collapsed. KSDL is now said to be experiencing “severe cash flow difficulties” that have been exacerbated by increasing energy costs.