Huddersfield Town fans have made the first move towards making it possible for a supporters’ group to buy the John Smith’s Stadium.
The Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association (HTSA) has signalled its intention to ask Kirklees Council to list the stadium as an Asset of Community Value.
If granted, it would mean that if stadium owner Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL) ever wanted to sell, community groups could bid for it.
If that happened a ‘moratorium’ – or delay – would be put on the sale and qualifying community groups would be given six months to raise the money. There is no requirement on the owner to accept a bid from a community group or take less than the market value, however. The status is a right to bid, not a right to buy.
In a statement HTSA said: “According to Kirklees Council ‘community and voluntary bodies as well as parish and town councils can nominate assets that provide an important service in their community for inclusion on the register of community value.'”
The statement adds: “If the bid is successful, the stadium will not be able to be sold without community groups being informed and given the right to make a bid to purchase it.
“AoCV status can also be used as a reason to refuse planning permission for change of use or demolition. In addition, it means a building can be purchased by the local authority ‘if the asset is under threat of long-term loss to the community.'”
Commenting on the decision, a HTSA spokesman said: “While the current stadium ownership situation presents little cause for concern, this may not be the case in five or 10 years.
“We therefore want to follow in the footsteps of Oxford United, Leeds United, and Man United fans by protecting our home and our place in it for the foreseeable future.”
HTSA will raise the issue at the next meeting of the All Together Town group and seek support from the football club for the listing.
KSDL is owned by Huddersfield Town (40%), Kirklees Council (40%) and Huddersfield Giants (20%). Huddersfield Hub understands that high-level talks are currently underway over ownership issues and how it will work in the future.
Talks are taking place between Phil Hodgkinson and Ken Davy, chairmen of the football and RL clubs respectively, senior officials at Kirklees Council and KSDL chairman Andrew Harrison.
The talks are thought to be “exploratory” at this stage. KSDL’s annual general meeting, set for March, has been postponed, though that is said not to be significant or unusual.
In 2018 Town’s then chairman Dean Hoyle sought to take “operational control” of the stadium and increase sponsorship and hospitality revenues in the Premier League. At the time Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said the stadium should not be sold and should remain a “community asset.”
Sir John Harman, a former chairman of KSDL and a current director, was leader of Kirklees Council when the stadium was built in the 1990s.
He is known to be a strong believer in the stadium having a wider community benefit beyond the football and RL clubs, which was the original intention when the stadium was built.