The future of the John Smith’s Stadium is back in the melting pot just months after a new ownership structure had been agreed.

Kirklees Council warned 12 months ago that the company which owns the stadium, Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL), could go bust unless a new ownership model was found.

The council, working with KSDL, drew up plans to create a Community Trust which would hand a 25-year lease and ‘operational control’ to Huddersfield Town.

Town’s then owner and chairman Phil Hodgkinson had been keen on a deal which meant the football club could have earned commercial revenue from the stadium for the first time since it was opened in 1994, thought to be as much as £5 million a year.

However, the collapse of companies in Mr Hodgkinson’s PURE Business Group last autumn meant that he stepped away from the football club. Former owner Dean Hoyle, who retained a 25% stake, is currently in the process of taking back Mr Hodgkinson’s 75% shareholding.

Now Mr Hoyle has told the other shareholders in KSDL – Town own 40%, Kirklees Council 40% and Huddersfield Giants 20% – that the deal agreed by Mr Hodgkinson was “not in the best interests of the club.”

Huddersfield Hub can reveal that plans to create a Community Trust – strongly advocated by Kirklees Council – had been all but agreed last April and lawyers had been on the brink of being instructed to draw up the paperwork.

The deal had been so close that the chairman of KSDL, Andrew Harrison, left the role having taken on a new job, believing the deal was all but over the line.

Phil Hodgkinson (left) and Dean Hoyle – the stadium nettle has to be grasped sooner rather than later

The stadium, which is almost 30 years old, has a backlog of repairs and maintenance which could cost at least £9 million over the next 10 years. As part of the creation of the Community Trust, the council was prepared to loan around £13 million to invest in the stadium.

Mr Hoyle has now made it clear that he believes the deal agreed by Mr Hodgkinson isn’t right for the football club in the current circumstances.

He says he’s committed to the football club in the “short to medium term” and is now thought to be seeking assurances over investment in the ageing stadium for the next five years.

Huddersfield Hub understands the Community Trust plan is now effectively “dead in the water” after Mr Hoyle’s veto.

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Paul Kemp, interim chairman of KSDL, confirmed the deal was off the table and said: “Dean Hoyle is the controlling party at the football club now and he wasn’t involved much before. Clearly, he has now formed his own view and he has made this pretty clear to the other shareholders.

“Is the old proposal dead in the water? The answer is probably ‘yes’ if one of the shareholders says they don’t want it to happen.”

It is understood there is no alternative plan being put forward at this stage but Mr Kemp added: “I don’t think it’s back to square one.

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“The football club picks up the majority of the bills which is fair enough because it’s the biggest user of the stadium. Mr Hoyle may have a different view about risk and reward than Mr Hodgkinson, and that’s a fair point to make. We don’t want to go into anything that’s unsustainable.

“What seemed to be the plan is now no longer the plan and there needs to be some discussion between the parties.”

A report to the council’s Cabinet in March last year pulled no punches and revealed that KSDL had loans to the bank and the council totalling £6 million.

The report said: “A do nothing approach would lead to an administration/insolvency situation. In this scenario there would be a high probability that the outstanding bank loan would default impacting on the council guarantee and leaving the council with a liability.”

READ MORE: How Kirklees Council thought the deal was done

Asked about the current situation, the council issued a statement which says: “Kirklees Council are still in conversation with all parties about proposals for the John Smith’s Stadium.

“We remain joint owners of the stadium alongside Huddersfield Town Association Football Club and Huddersfield Sporting Pride (the Giants Rugby Club) and we are all committed to a bright future for the stadium and all its patrons.”

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