Gary Neville's role in helping Salford Red Devils sort their future revealed
GARY Neville could be the man to keep Salford Red Devils in their home city as they face being priced out of the AJ Bell Stadium.
And if things go well, a move to Salford City FC’s Moor Lane home could happen at the end of next season.
Fellow tenants Sale Sharks RU are putting together a formal offer in the region of £15 million to buy the facility, which is £33 million in debt.
Whatever happens, a new rental agreement will be drawn up at the end of 2023, with the lower rent they pay at least quadrupling to an unaffordable level.
But Neville, who co-owns Salford City, has emerged as the man who could keep last year’s Challenge Cup finalists home after a meeting on Monday.
And even though Moor Lane’s 5,032 capacity is less than half the AJ Bell’s 12,000, it will be big enough.
Salford director Paul King, who approached Neville, said: “Gary is minded to help where he can. He has a care for the Red Devils.
“We’ve not yet established what ‘where he can’ means yet. It was an initial conversation and it’s complicated. I’m sure there’ll be others.
“It was about the situation in general. I like to be dead straight and I was with him – this is where we're at, we can’t afford the rent. We’ve never got close to paying our contracted value in 10 years.
“Unless we can do something to address that situation, the other option is out of the city which the council does not want, it upsets them just to mention it.
“He listened intently. I don’t know him, I just remember him from being at Old Trafford back in his day. He’s an astute, sensitive guy who’s very aware of how we are and what our position is.
“I was trying to get the nod to let the Rugby Football League have access and see if it’s acceptable to them.
“There’ll be another conversation with Gary in the next week or two. The regulations are 5,000 capacity with 2,000 seated, so if the run-off areas are suitable, there’s no reason for them to object.
“The stadium was built on an initial concept of attendances of 8,000 people. The reality was an average of 3,365. 16 of the 143 games we played pre-pandemic attracted more than 5,000.
“But the council’s on a fast track, which is reasonable and understandable – they would prefer to be out. So on that basis the rent would shoot up. Why would I pay an extra £300,000 if I don’t want to?
“Sale haven’t made a formal approach but they want to get a move on. If I’m Sale, I’d do exactly what they’ve done and it starts with a six.
“But they have no wish to buy the stadium until Salford Red Devils’ future is secure.”
Salford have also been offered three potential new homes by neighbouring Manchester City Council, including the National Speedway Stadium and the Manchester Regional Arena, the athletics track next to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
But King and bosses describe that option as ‘Custer’s last stand’ with the preference to either stay in the city.
A training facility, proposed to be a rugby league hub for Greater Manchester, would also be set up, either next to the AJ Bell or elsewhere.
Peter Openshaw of Salford City Council laid bare just how vital a deal is, sooner rather than later.
He said: “The stadium debt is £33.5 million and the management company is losing about £1.5 million a year.
“If it didn’t have top ups from its two partners – the council and Peel Holdings, it would go into administration. It would fold.”
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