Salford Red Devils is preparing a counter bid for the stadium it shares with Sale Sharks after it emerged the rugby union side had made initial enquiries about buying the ground.
The 15,000-capacity stadium, located in Salford close to the Trafford Centre, is owned by City of Salford Community Stadium, a joint venture between Peel L&P and Salford City Council, and has been shared by the two clubs since 2012.
The £26m venue was originally built for rugby league side Salford Red Devils, but Sale Sharks signed a 25-year lease on the ground shortly after construction completed.
Sharks’ bid comes after a failed attempt to return to Sale, after Trafford Council blocked the club’s plans to build a new stadium at Crossford Bridge playing fields.
The club was contacted for comment.
In response to Sale Sharks’ interest in buying the AJ Bell stadium, as reported by the Manchester Evening News, Salford Red Devils executive chairman Paul King said: “Although late in the day, and as a club without a benefactor, we are looking at making a bid ourselves to protect our Salford base.”
As well as preparing a counter bid, King said the club would look into renegotiating its “unsustainable tenancy agreement”.
“We have been seeking a new deal on terms that we can afford. Any ownership changes to the stadium that increases our rent above what is financially viable for the club would be devastating,” he said.
Peter Openshaw, interim strategic director of the place directorate at Salford City Council, confirmed it had received a bid from Sale Sharks and that it was engaged in discussions with the Red Devils about the stadium and safeguarding the future of the club.
“We are aware of rumours, but no decision has been taken on whether to sell the AJ Bell stadium or on any terms of sale,” Openshaw said.
In a statement to Place North West, Stephen Wild, executive director of strategic investment & growth at Peel L&P said: “To echo Peter Openshaw’s comment, CosCos has been approached in respect of the potential sale of the stadium.
“Since 2007, Peel L&P and the Peel Group have sponsored and supported Salford Red Devils and the stadium with sponsorship monies totalling in excess of £3.5m. During the discussions about the future sale and management of the AJ Bell Stadium, we will continue to work closely with Salford Red Devils to ensure all parties are in agreement.”