Star date: 14th September 2013


Salford City Stadium, formerly the Salford Community Stadium, has now lost the word `Salford' from its title completely after Sale Sharks flogged off the naming rights to `investment platforms and stockbroker services' company AJ Bell, which is based in Trafford.

Meanwhile The Willows, former home of Salford City Reds - re-named Salford Red Devils last week - is at the centre of more possible Salford Council controversy.

Full details here

The Willows Salford Sept 2013 The Willows Salford Sept 2013
click image to enlarge

As predicted by Salford Star exactly a year ago (see previous feature click here), the Salford City Stadium is losing the word `Salford' from its title, and is now to be known as the AJ Bell Stadium, after Sale Sharks flogged off the naming rights to the `investment platforms and stockbroker services' company.

The Stadium has been fraught with controversy since its conception and was built as a `joint venture' company by Salford City Council and Peel Holdings with 26million of public money a 22million loan from Salford Council and 4million grant from North West Development Agency, and Salford Council land worth 6.7million.

It was originally named the Salford Community Stadium and was announced by John Merry, former Leader of Salford City Council, as "another landmark development for Salford that will benefit the economy and the community who will have access to use its quality facilities".

However, when people from the community later asked whether the community would have free access to its facilities, they were told that this wouldn't be the case; it "had to wash its face financially".

The word `Community' was dropped from the stadium's title as it became Salford City Stadium, and rugby union club, Sale Sharks, bought the naming rights to the stadium a year ago.

Even so, the Stadium became a financial white elephant, and earlier this year, as Marwan Koukash completed his takeover of Salford City Reds, stadium accounts revealed a loss of 4.3million. Salford Council again stepped in to rescue the project with a five year 600,000 loan to its own joint venture company (Peel also provided a 600,000 loan).

Even though Salford council tax payers have been forking out all the way along to build the stadium and keep it going, it will now no longer even bear the name of the city.

AJ Bell's Marketing Director, Billy Mackay, said that he was delighted "to be associated with a club with the pedigree of Sale Sharks. We were impressed by the club's appetite for success, something that resonates well with all of the people within our business."

Andrew Lamb, Head of Commercial Sales for Sale Sharks, added: "AJ Bell is a thriving, successful company with national reach and strong roots in Manchester and their company philosophies match those of Sale Sharks. With the exciting developments planned for the area in and around the stadium site, the AJ Bell Stadium will continue to grow into a true all year-round sports and events venue."

Meanwhile, Salford people posting comments on the Salford City Stadium website (watch that change its title in the next few weeks!) have reacted with fury to the name change

"We the Salford fans have been s*** on"

"And what about the name of SALFORD ?????? As its the people of SALFORD who part own this so called community stadium, have they got no rites what so ever about the name of SALFORD BEING REMOVED FROM THERE STADIUM????"

 "Absolutely disgraceful, that The City of Salford, have allowed this situation to ensue!"

"Just go the whole way and rip up the red seats and put all blue seats in and be done with it!!!! Take me home willows road..."

The Salford Star visited The Willows this week, which is now just a pile of bricks and mounds of earth, with the promised housing development nowhere in sight, even though the first payment from the first house was supposed to happen in 2012, to pay back part of Salford Council's original 1million loan to the former Salford City Reds.

The loan deal was part of the most bizarre piece of Salford Council skulduggery concerning the whole Salford Reds episode, as even the Council's own legal adviser noted in a confidential report from January 2011 "There appears to be some creative financial manoeuvres here".

Within the secret deal, leaked to the Salford Star, the Council bought back the lease on the Willows car park from Willows Variety Centre Ltd (which later went bust), for 250,000. But the Council already owned the freehold to the car park.

The Willows ground itself was already in hock to the Co-op Bank for 2.2million and the Wilkinson Pension Fund for 1.7million and had "clearly no value" left in it. So the Council entered into a strange deal with Godliman Watson Homes (GWH), of which Robert Iain Watson was a Salford Reds Director, to pay off the loan as houses were built on the site (see previous Salford Star article - click here)

The Salford Star now understands that Godliman Watson Homes is having serious financial problems. Work on its Albert Park development has stopped and the Star has been contacted by companies owed money by the firm saying they are not being paid.

The 1.5million loan to the original Salford Reds Rugby club was taken up by new owner Marwan Koukash, again on bizarre terms, which means the majority of the interest free loan won't be paid off until 2028 (see previous Salford Star article click here). But the fall back position was that Salford Council also had security on its loan from the former Reds directors.

Now it seems that the Council is about to bail the directors out again, after the Salford Star discovered a note, buried deep within Salford Council's website, titled "Possible Acquisition of land at Willows Road/Kennedy Road" "Willows Road leasehold acquisition and grant of development agreement."

It appears that the Council is about to buy the old Willows site, which would bail out the former Reds directors, again, and pay back its own loans?

The Salford Star asked Salford Council for an explanation but, as usual, no comment or explanation has been forthcoming.

Photos by Steven Speed

Main photo shows the car park at The Willows this week

Kenneth w mckelvey wrote
at 03:51:12 on 23 September 2013
How can Salfords so called labour council evict tenants for a wrong that is not their fault. They are just the victims of a none elected government who are following a dogma that believes that the sick are malingerers The unemployed are lazy and the old and disabled are scroungers they even think that OAPs pensions are a benifit They forget that we paid full tax and N/I contributions for50yrs.Up to thatcher coming on the scene Salford was one of the busyist City's in the UK paying in untold millions Alas she put an end to that. She even closed down the second largest industrial complexes in the World Trafford Park what hundreds of Salfordians worked .So come on Salford council earn your corn stand up for your citizens

Michael Felse wrote
at 19:17:58 on 21 September 2013
Hi Tony, you will be pleased to know I kept the home on in Salford which means I pay Council Tax. In fact I am sure even Troll will agree this gives me every right to comment on Salford Council and us community. Which gives me to again condemn Bedroom Tax.

Tony Blair, say's wrote
at 11:37:46 on 20 September 2013
How can Michael felse comment on things that are happening in salford, when he now lives in the midlands.

Why oh Why? Wheres the CASH?? wrote
at 08:43:39 on 20 September 2013
Ok so points raised here so far are: Salford council half own the stadium, correct I belive so WHERE is the annouancment to US the residents of Salford as to exactly what was paid for the naming rights? Our glourius leaders half own it on OUR behalf and "they work for you"(Google it) so what's the score??? +++ The stadium IS in the City of Salford, it was Salford council that granted the planning for it, so the question is WHY did this happen when the transport infrastuture was clearly NOT in place, as has been demonstrated on many occasions since the birth of the stadia.

Michael Felse wrote
at 08:42:50 on 20 September 2013
At a risk of Troll ignoring my words - let me thank Mark for clarity on the AJBELL 17billion worth of structured assets. I welcome any amount they put into Salford. Thank your AJBELL's Board for giving Salford consideration. Please show the doubters are wrong and invest more and often in our community.

Tony Blair, say's wrote
at 16:59:26 on 19 September 2013
Salford advertiser today has a picture of Ian Stewart sat behind marwan I've got all salford tax payers koucash, at what looks like an official salford rugby meeting', so no conflict of interest there then and after a certain salford council top boss leaves with 78.000 in the back pocket, after negotiating a good screwing to the salford tax payer, some how I don't think Ian Stewart gives a dam if he gets elected mayor again has he has made lots of new rich friends who will keep him in the luxury he has now become accustomed to, so it's two fingers from Stewart . Ps shouldn't any monies made from renting the ground out, go directly in to the city of salford coffers, seeing we are the owners of the stadium, after all if it went bankrupt wouldn't the salford tax payer have to pay the bill has we financed it in the first place.

mary ferrer wrote
at 07:08:58 on 19 September 2013
I, love all the bloody daft names people call themselves.To "The End" I am NOT moaning about renting the Stadium out.WhatI am not happy about is this was sold to the people of this city as "SALFORD COMMUNIT STADIUM" first we lost the community bit, then the Council sell on the naming rights,but won't say for how much. I also would like to point out upto Mr what ever his name bought it Salford reds never paid a penny in rent. But if the little under 18s down the road rented it, you can bet they would have been in court by now if they hadn't paid the rent. And thats what these people are doing, RENTING IT, they haven't bought it so why give them the right to remove the word SALFORD, when its the people from Salford who foot the bill to build it in the first place. By the way, why don't people use their proper name,if you have something you feel passionate about have the bottle to put your name to it.

Troll Patrol wrote
at 07:07:08 on 19 September 2013
@ Mark, please do not speak to the dickhead sitting in the corner (Michael Felse) most of us on here have the view that it's best not too feed the animals, we have come to that conclusion and have decided not to take him on. Best bet with TROLLS like that is too ignore them.

Mark wrote
at 18:20:26 on 18 September 2013
Michael - They aren't worth 17billion, they may hold this amount in assets under management, but these assets are held under trust for clients. While I have nothing against them, they are not investing in Salford sport, they have done a deal with Sale Sharks. Just thought I would clear that up!

Michael Felse wrote
at 06:27:14 on 18 September 2013
Excellent news for Salford Stadium. This Trafford firm is reported to be worth 17billion. We can now hope to see investment growth in Salford sport, the type of investment Salford deserves. BIG Thank You to A.J.BELL for investing in greatness. I urge A.J.BELL not to stop but go on and help Salford local amateur clubs, growing us young and future players from this unique, talented and very Proud City.

Colin Blyth wrote
at 13:20:00 on 16 September 2013
how soon before the "Bell end" jokes start?

mark wrote
at 10:45:54 on 15 September 2013
Re Jeffrey Smith The stadium IS in the CITY of Salford. All the areas you mentioned are within the city of Salford. You live there, ypu are in Salford and taxes to Salford council. Not eccles council, not peel green or patricroft council, Salford council. You must be stupid if you do not understand this!

the end wrote
at 08:26:43 on 15 September 2013
Ripped off Red! Typical of the grown up response you usually get on this site when some one is wrong,typical keyboard warrior I have been watching Salford since the 70's, . REF mary, . Salford Coucil /us may own the stadium, but its availble to rent, just like other pitches in the area. You moan about its cost and them moan when they rent it out. I agree we should never been involved in the first place, but we are stuck with it until its paid for.

mary ferrer wrote
at 04:59:48 on 15 September 2013
Yes we bloody do OWN SALFORD COMMUNITY STADIUM. It will be the people of this city who will be paying back the LOAN that SALFORD LABOUR PARTY entered into to build the bloody thing in the first place, and where (The End) do you think that money will come from OUR council tax. Mr MONEY MAN who took over the CLUB and not the building hasn't handee over 22 MILLION. So the STADIUM is still in ownership of the city of Salford and not some bloke from LIVERPOOL. The bloody thing is a drain on our finances, the council are giving themselves loads to keep the Stadium afloat. And in the nest breath saying we can't look after our most needy residents. Both young and old are feeling the pinch. Jobs gone and not at the top of Salford councils wages scale.And why won't the council say how much they got for selling the rights. what have they got to hide.

Ripped off Red! wrote
at 04:59:37 on 15 September 2013
Sorry 'the end' but you have totally misunderstood what I have said and I will not 'get over it'. If are clearly not a supporter of the Reds/Red Devils jusging by the tripe you have just written. Where is your passion muppet?

the end wrote
at 18:23:56 on 14 September 2013
ref Ripped off Red!, Sale , just like Salford and Manchester United rent the stadium. Its not Salford RLFC's stadium, we sold the one we owned if you remember. Sale have the naming rights because they paid for them, simple reality,If Sale had not come in and halved the Reds rental costs, the reds would have gone bump. Letss worry about ourselves and not others at the stadium. We dont own it , so get over it.

Ripped off Red! wrote
at 17:33:01 on 14 September 2013
Salford has no connections with rugby union so WHY has this been allowed to happen?? Salford RLFC may end up living in the shadow of a club that may even have an agenda to see of RL in the vicinity! Sale Sharks alredy have a terrible reputation as cuckoos in Stockport! We were warned, but nobody listened! I hope and pray something good comes out of this. Maybe Israeli born Marwan Koukash may buy the stadium and buyout this particular sponsorship deal and RETURN the Salford name, then again, the name Salford doesn't even appear on the club's new logo!

Colin Blyth wrote
at 11:56:14 on 14 September 2013
Put in Freedom of information requests and the council must reveal the facts. I think you may have revealed a timebomb here which should force most councillors to resign.

A Thought wrote
at 11:55:42 on 14 September 2013
Sighs - Another correspondent stuck in the 1970s. Needless to say you're happy when you get what you want when you scream loud enough...Oh and BTW...Swinton? Eccles? Irlam? want someone to whinge at about your latest moan - you need look no further than your own front door - as its your councillors making the policy in town hall.

jeffrey smith wrote
at 11:13:36 on 14 September 2013
the salford community stadium isnt in salford anyway You should of build it in salford instead you build another tesco I drive through salford Through eccles patricroft and peelgreen And where am i Oh the salford stadium

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