Everything you need to know on Salford Red Devils’ future after stadium deal secured

Aaron Bower
Salford Red Devils, AJ Bell Stadium. SWPix

Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

There was significant news off the field for Salford Red Devils last month, following confirmation that Salford Council are to purchase full ownership of the Salford Community Stadium, bringing a lengthy period of uncertainty to an end.

For the Red Devils, the news is enormous on a variety of fronts. It means that any prospect of them having to relocate has now been ended with the Council – which already owns 50 per cent of the site – agreeing to purchase the rest from property company Peel.

News then came today (March 5) that the club have secured investment in excess of £300,000 to help stabilise the club while the stadium deal is being concluded. That will then help Salford to generate new income streams.

The Council will then own the land surrounding the stadium, the facility itself and training pitches in its entirety – which could open doors for Salford both on and off the field. Love Rugby League has spoken to the key people involved to explain exactly what it means for the Super League club: and what happens next.

What happens now?

Salford Council will push on with their deal to buy Peel out of the facility, which is estimated to cost in the region of £2million. The Council will also inherit the £38m debt owned by the stadium company as a result – which was met with disapproval from some at Salford Council.

However, with the deal now formally announced, it is expected it could be concluded in a relatively short period of time. Love Rugby League has been told that by the end of next month, the saga could well be at an end – which means the Red Devils can push on with their own long-term plans for a sustainable future.

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How does the news impact Salford immediately?

In the short-term, it means they can secure a lengthy lease to continue playing at the stadium. There has been talk of a 15-year lease being agreed between the Red Devils and the Council when they buy Peel’s 50 per cent, which opens a number of doors.

With an agreement in principle already in place for that lease, it means once it is signed off, Salford can access a number of crowdfunding pots that will inject significant money into the club’s finances.

With a 15-year lease, Salford will get more funding than perhaps they have ever seen during their time at the stadium, which will all be invested into the club. Salford could even have a 12-month rent-free period as part of the initial agreement, Love Rugby League has been told.

What other benefits are there for the Red Devils?

Lots, in short.

Without Peel, and with Salford under a long-term lease, they will be able to tap into a number of new and lucrative revenue streams. Take hospitality sales, for example. At present, Salford would only get the ticket price in the cost of a hospitality package but once the deal has been completed, they will be able to secure a percentage of food and beverage sales, too.

And it isn’t just limited to hospitality. In previous years, Salford haven’t seen a single penny of any food or beverage sales inside the stadium. The have not made a penny from the concourses. But that will now change.

The exact numbers are to be determined but Love Rugby League has been told Salford will start making money as a club from the food and beverage sales.

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Can Salford benefit from the stadium’s empty land?

It certainly seems as though they could. With so much land simply sat vacant around the stadium at present, the plan now will be for that to be sold off to make money to help the Council recoup the money they have spent to get this deal done.

Salford are keen to get some of that land, with planning permission already in place for what they have described as a ‘commercial activity’ in the North East corner of the stadium.

Long-term, they would also be interested in purchasing a percentage of the stadium from the Council – but that is some time off yet.

What’s Salford’s short and long-term plan now their future is secured?

Managing director Paul King tells Love Rugby League that the deal achieves two things – it enables the club to take significant steps towards being sustainable as a rugby league club, but it also enables them to launch some significant community activity in the area.

“This is enormous news,” King says.

“It’s two-fold really; it’s about becoming self-sustaining and the club looking after itself, but it’s also about becoming more embedded within the community. This isn’t just about the stadium, we’ve now got a strong link with the Council and with that, we will launch a rugby league strategy for the city of Salford.

“We will relaunch the Valentine Cup, Salford’s traditional schools and community competition and the final will be played at the stadium. Participation rates aren’t great around here unless you’re a Manchester United fan: we want to change that.

“We’ll do free delivery programmes in schools in Salford and help deliver the next generation of rugby league players and supporters. It’s a long-term plan that will, over time, address the issue of attendances – that’s really where the club fell off a long time ago after leaving The Willows. The club has lost its soul a little bit in that area – but now we have the opportunity to get that back.”

Salford hope the stadium news will also produce a late surge in season ticket sales for 2024, with many consulted who weren’t renewing understood to have expressed their concerns that the Red Devils’ long-term future was uncertain.

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