Kirklees Council’s Cabinet have backed plans to set up a Community Trust to run the John Smith’s Stadium.
Huddersfield Hub reported at the weekend how senior council officers warned that a new ownership structure was needed otherwise the stadium would go bust.
The stadium is run by Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL), a company owned by Kirklees Council (40%), Huddersfield Town (40%) and Huddersfield Giants (20%).
But the council warned that the company had significant debts and would need to spend £9 million on essential repairs and maintenance over the next 10 years.
A report to Cabinet warned that leaving the ownership structure unchanged would likely result in KSDL facing administration.
A virtual meeting of Cabinet on Tuesday evening was told that the board of KSDL had not met to discuss the council’s proposals and had only been informed last week that changes were afoot.
Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said creating a Community Trust would mean “stability and future-proofing” of the stadium.
He said the council had had to rescue the stadium twice “though others got the credit” for that.
He praised the then council leader John Harman, who later became KSDL chairman, for leading a “very creative and very brave” bid to build the stadium 25 years ago.
He said the stadium had proved a good investment for the council and added that to “have kept the ship afloat has been a major achievement” and that was “very much by the goodwill of the council.”
Council leader Shabir Pandor described Sir John Harman as a “pioneer” for the work he did on the stadium and he welcomed a “new arrangement and a new era.”
He added: “I’m glad we are in a situation where we can still back the stadium.”
Clr Nigel Patrick asked Cabinet why the KSDL board had not been allowed to discuss the matter before it went to Cabinet.
David Shepherd, a council officer for growth and regeneration, said the KSDL board had been informed in advance and would have chance to discuss it at their next meeting in April.
Clr Pandor added: “This is a matter for us. The decision for KSDL will be theirs.”
Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet Member for Corporate, hailed the move as a “really important step forward.” He said the council did what was right 25 years ago and was doing the right thing at the right time once more.
He added: “We know there’s been difficulties with people not talking to each other and personality clashes but this should allow us to move forward.”
The council has agreed to look at creating a Community Trust and will look at loaning the new body the £13 million the council says it needs going forward.
The council also wants to buy a plot of development land off Gasworks Street that was bought by KSDL as part of the stalled HD One leisure and retail scheme.