The man who had the vision to create what is now the John Smith’s Stadium believes a new management structure is urgently needed to secure the stadium’s long-term future.

Former Huddersfield Town chairman and successful entrepreneur Prof Graham Leslie CBE was founder chairman and driving force behind the revolutionary plans for the stadium back in the 1990s.

The Hillsborough disaster changed everything in British football and Prof Leslie worked tirelessly to ensure his dream of opening the country’s first-ever all-seater stadium became a reality.

Opened in 1994, the stadium has been run by Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL), a company owned in partnership by Town (40%), Kirklees Council (40%) and Huddersfield Giants (20%).

However, after 30 years, that management structure is seen as outdated. The stadium still has debts of £6 million and the ageing structure – built at a cost of £40 million – now needs an estimated £9 million in repairs over the next 10 years.

READ MORE: Is Community Trust plan for the stadium ‘dead in the water’?

Under previous Town chairman Phil Hodgkinson a deal was ready to be signed which would have created a Community Trust to run the stadium.

Under the deal Town would have been handed a 25-year lease and ‘operational control’ meaning the club would have made money from events, concerts and conferences. The council would have loaned £13 million to allow the Trust to move forward.

However, the deal fell through when Mr Hodgkinson stepped back from Town and former chairman Dean Hoyle moved to acquire 100% ownership once more.

Prof Graham Leslie CBE (right) with a painting of Town captain Christopher Schindler commissioned from artist Richard Gower

Kirklees Council said 12 months ago that KSDL was at risk of going bust if the management structure didn’t change and the Community Trust was seen as a way to protect council taxpayers from any future liabilities.

Mr Hoyle, however, pulled the plug on the deal saying it wasn’t in the best interests of the football club.

No alternative has been put forward and now Prof Leslie says plans must be urgently put in place to secure the stadium’s future.

“It saddens me to hear about the uncertainty surrounding the stadium which both myself and the leader of Kirklees Council at the time, Sir John Harman, put so much time and energy into creating,” said Prof Leslie.

“The vision I had was to save both Huddersfield Town and Huddersfield RUFC from financial ruin and bring them together under one roof, one home. We had a plan at the time where both clubs had a profitable future within four years.

READ MORE: Graham Leslie CBE – Why I Love Huddersfield

“Time moves on, of course, and the structure that was suitable in the 1990s may not be what’s needed in the 2020s and beyond.

“Kirklees Council has warned that KSDL is at risk and is rightly trying to protect local taxpayers from any liability or the need to bail out the stadium or its two tenants.

“We all know that the finances of sporting clubs can be precarious at the best of times but the future of the stadium must be resolved without delay.

“I have the utmost respect for Dean Hoyle and Ken Davy and now all parties involved should consider the original reasons for building the stadium – to serve our community – and only when that becomes paramount once more can we ensure we leave a legacy that everyone can be proud of.”

A lasting legacy: “While the world of football was talking about new stadiums, Huddersfield Town went ahead and built one.”