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Salford City's stadium move dealt a fatal blow

Salford City Council has rejected a joint bid from football club Salford City and rugby union side Sale Sharks to purchase the AJ Bell Stadium.

The council said the proposal to buy the ground did not "satisfy aspirations" for the community asset.

Sharks, along with rugby league side Salford Red Devils, are existing tenants of the 12,000-capacity venue.

They will both remain at the AJ Bell, while Salford City said they would now stay at their Peninsula Stadium home.

A Salford City Council spokesperson said: "The council and Coscos (stadium company) have been in extensive negotiations with partners about the sale of the stadium - but unfortunately we have not received a proposal which satisfies our aspirations for this great community asset.

"We are now looking at other future options. It is important to note that we have been liaising closely with executives at Salford Red Devils and Sale Sharks who are fully briefed.

"We will provide further updates in the new year."

In a statement, the football club said the council would now be purchasing the stadium outright themselves.

"Whilst this news came as a surprise to us, we will continue to monitor closely the progression of the purchase, but at this moment our immediate future is to remain at the Peninsula Stadium," the Salford City statement said.

Sale chief executive Sid Sutton told the Sharks' club website: "We will continue to have a long-term home at our stadium, however we can confirm that following 18 months of discussions, our proposed bid to buy the stadium as part of a joint venture has been declined.

"We are now working very closely with Salford City Council to ensure we reach a robust agreement that allows Sale Sharks to both enhance and control the matchday experience for the benefit of our supporters, and benefit commercially from matchday activity.

"We have always maintained that taking control of the stadium is integral to the long-term future of Sale Sharks and that remains the case. But equally, we were clear that we wouldn't proceed with any course of action until Salford Red Devils have secured a place to play.

"Salford City Council's proposed agreement will enable this to happen while ensuring that the stadium remains the home of Sale Sharks."

Salford City had previously announced that they hoped to make the move to the AJ Bell Stadium in time for the 2023-24 season, while Super League side Salford Red Devils' rental agreement at the ground is currently set to finish at the end of the 2023 campaign.

There was also talk last year of a potential stadium swap agreement between the football and rugby league clubs.

Swinton-based businessman Sebastian Gerrard has also shown interest in purchasing the ground in order to protect rugby league's interest at the stadium.

Salford left their old Willows home in Weaste at the end of the 2011 Super League season to move to the new then-Salford City Stadium, with Sale joining them for the 2012-13 Premiership campaign onwards.

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