Paul Dennett rugby, Salford City Council, p Salford City Council

Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said that taking full control of the stadium will enable the city council to progress its plans to regenerate the area. Credit: via Salford City Council

Salford presses on with stadium purchase

Buying out Peel’s 50% share of the Red Devils’ home, the city council has reiterated its commitment to a 2010 promise to further develop the area.

Salford City Council’s cabinet decided to take full ownership of Salford Community Stadium on 13 February. The decision to take over the stadium has been in the works since March last year – but was called in later that summer by Conservatives concerned about whether the move was a good financial move.

Salford Community Stadium, previously known as the AJ Bell Stadium, is the home of the Salford Red Devils rugby league team and rugby union team Sale Sharks. It sits off Stadium Way, with the Manchester Ship Canal to its south.

The deal includes a 500-space car park and two training pitches, as well as nearly 25 acres of development land.

That land sits within the Greater Manchester Western Gateway, a growth location site for Greater Manchester. This area includes Port Salford as well as the 15,000-seat community stadium.

Salford estimates that the development site has the potential to generate 790 jobs, £28m of social value, and £65m of private sector investment. The city council puts the Western Gateway’s future gross development value at more than £90m, with a projection of creating £1.2m of business rates each year.

While the area’s future potential is great, currently the stadium faces a debt of £37m as of 2023. The city council believes that future land sales will help reduce that debt.

Clad in a Devils red t-shirt, Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett harkened back to 2010 to defend the decision to buy the stadium.

“It’s about delivering on the promises made to the people of Salford,” he told Place North West. Those promises were for a community stadium that would keep the 150-year-old Red Devils Salford-based and would ultimately create jobs for the area.

Dennett said there was interest in the plots of land the city council will be putting out to market and that some of those deals just need to get over the line. He acknowledged that the sale of the land had been slower than he would have liked. By taking Peel out of the equation, he hopes the process will move faster.

“I think acquiring the stadium will help us have a lot more leverage and control,” he said. “I see it as a really positive thing.”

His vision for those 25 acres is focused on employment. “Inevitably, this is about creating jobs,” he said. He reiterated the more than £90m GDV, £1.2m business rates, and £65m private sector investment figures.

“When all is said and done, and if these calculations are correct, if this ends up costing the council around £2m – to have delivered what I’ve just told you would be a phenomenal achievement,” Dennett said. “We should be celebrating the outcome for the city.”

Dennett’s focus was not just on the development land. He spoke about the importance the purchase will have on the rugby scene in the North West and beyond. He said he is willing to work with central government to craft a strategy to help the financially struggling sport.

“Rugby is in crisis in this country,” he said. “I’m talking league and union… there’s a bigger piece of work that needs to be done.”

Already, though, the decision to acquire the stadium has had a big impact on the local rugby scene.

Paul King, managing director of the Red Devils said, “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,” King said. “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.”

King continued: “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.”

In addition to hosting the Red Devils and the Sale Sharks, Salford Community Stadium will be a key venue for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Your Comments

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Excellent work Mr Dennett. You have kept to the long term promises when the stadium was built. I hope your wishes for the land development around the stadium come to fruition eventually making the project financially viable.

By Anonymous

Unless one of them was to keep throwing money at this for ever, it doesn’t look like any of the original promises made by Salford Council have been kept.
The wider development of the area hasn’t happened, it’s been the opposite of a money spinner for the council, and Salford Red Devils still haven’t won the Super League.
If the likes of Peel couldn’t make any progress, why should the council do any better?
Always a sense that rugby fandom has played a bigger role than it should when it comes to keeping on putting more money into this, going back to when it was still on the drawing board.

By Egg-shaped

Nice stadium, really good location

By Gilly

Infrastructure needs sorting. It was frustrating to see the original plans for the Trafford Centre tram line, to terminate at the stadium, get quietly dropped. Not to mention the road over the river take about ten years to get built.


Its a shocking location to get to. Most people need to drive so its awful to get out of, never mind the impact on local residents. 8.57am commentator is bang on – tram line would have been a huge shift. People from town and further afield could have easily got from Manchester, via Trafford Park, Trafford Centre and then to the stadium. I hope this can be implemented quickly.

In all reality, what should have happened is the proposed move to the fields in Sale, just off the M60. Close to the metro which is already in place and Sale town centre itself. But never took off due to unfounded objections and intervention of the local council.

By Anonymous

Taking “Peel” out of the equation will help to ensure a Salfordian, will more likely be able to see cost effective results…….!!

By Richard Johnson

Terrible location for a stadium. No public transport. No pubs. No atmosphere. Hopefully Sale Sharks will leave at some point to where they have a fan base and people can get to games without sitting in Trafford Centre traffic. Salford Reds only need a 2,000 capacity stadium. The whole project has been flawed from the very start.

By Mr T

If ever a development showed Peel’s wilful lack of appreciation of urban design and place-making, it is this stadium. Even when presented with an open goal – Princes Dock, Liverpool – they turn what could be a marvellous civic and commercial asset into a featureless, wind-swept place to avoid.

By More Anonymous than the others

I still haven’t been there, though I hope to go soon. It’s a shame the Willows couldn’t have been improved – loved the location and the atmosphere there!

By Anonymous

Beware the Sharks. They seek to devour everything and are quite ruthless in pursuit of their own ends.

By Unlevelled for balance

The statement that Salford Red Devils only require a capacity of 2,000 seems quite a sweeping one to make, Mr T, when their average attendance was almost 5,300 in 2023, and their smallest gate was just shy of 4,000, in spite of the access barriers well-documented within these comments.

By Anonymous

Waste of public money. Should have sold the stadium to Sale Sharks and Salford City FC when the opportunity was presented. Hopefully Sharks find a permanent home, and the council realise their mistake in not selling to them. Not a sustainable home for a rugby league side with next to no fans.

By Big Dub

A massive opportunity missed at the Crossford Bridge site in Sale

By Anonymous

Get the tram extended from Trafford Centre with a stop at the stadium and all that land suddenly becomes viable. Plus the added benefit of convenience for fans.

By Anonymous

Last time I checked, the stadium is right next to the Barley Farm Carvery which has a bar plus another bar at the Barton Aerodrome. Out of Stadium Way turning left is the A57 to the M6 J21, straight on is the M60 J11 and turn right takes you to M60 J10 and the Trafford Centre. Like all developments it takes a few of the plots to get built and open to attract customers to attract other developments to improve the offer. Lets hope Salford CC get on with the purchase to keep the ball rolling.


Parking at Old Trafford is far worse

By Anonymous

Access is far better than the willows was, it’s right near the Trafford Centre, there’s nowhere more accessible on the region, and there are pubs, some people just like to complain who have never been there

By Gilly

Assuming that very little profit from match day still applies for Sharks and Reds! Ridiculous!!!!!!

By Piers Cauthery

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