Shay shake-up could see rent rises for two clubs

The Shay Stadium, Halifax
The Shay Stadium, Halifax

A major shake-up at the Shay could see land around the stadium sold off, development of the East Stand annexe and increased rent rates for FC Halifax Town and Halifax Rugby League Club,

The Halifax stadium costs the taxpayer £200,000 a year to run and Conservative council leader Stephen Baines has said he is in negotiations with a number of interested parties to reduce this bill.

The redevelopment ideas are believed to include building a hotel on Skircoat Road at the back of the Skircoat stand and the opening of bar and restaurant facilities. The development would bring a new look to Skircoat Road.

Councillor Baines has guaranteed that while he is council leader the pitch and the stands of the Shay will remain in council ownership, but has said he is looking at ways to generate more income from the site to reduce costs to the Calderdale taxpayer.

He said: “The Shay estate is much larger than the footprint of the stadium and there are other things we could do with the surrounding area.

“We are looking at ways we can utilise the rest of the land around the area of the stadium itself - at the back of the South Stand, there’s quite a bit of space there, for example.

“Most football grounds do not have that big space around them - it’s not needed for the provision of sports.

“While the pitch and the spectator stands would remain in council ownership, I’m not precious about the land that surrounds it.”

Coun Baines said the rent paid by FC Halifax Town and Halifax RLFC - who play at the Shay - goes nowhere near covering the costs of the stadium and only covers three-fifths of the cost of running sporting events.

He said: “Rent from the football and rugby club accounts for 60 per cent of the total costs of the maintenance of the ground and match day costs - this has nothing to do with the capital costs or the costs of running the East Stand

“We’ve got to renegotiate some realistic payments towards the costs of running the facilities for them to play their sports.

Coun Baines (Con, Northowram/Shelf) said he is looking at ways to use some of the empty office space in the Shay by using it to house council offices or to rent them out to businesses.

He is also in on-going talks with an undisclosed company that is interested in completing the development of the East Stand annexe.

He said: “We already have a company seriously in negotiations to develop the annexe at the East Stand to be used as offices - that again will bring revenue into maintaining the costs of the Shay estate.

“If we can get income-generating facilities - whatever that may be and subject to planning permission - we want to make that happen.

“The Shay costs a lot more than just running its sports facilities because it is a community stadium - it’s used for a lot of other things.

“The profits from the catering and the rent from hiring of rooms for things like meetings and conferences does bring in reasonable amount of income, but it is still heavily subsidised.

“Hopefully in the next few months we’ll be able to announce that somebody is going to finish the annexe to the East Stand by moving their business into that part of the Shay.”

But when asked if he would be willing to give more details on the negotiations he said the details were confidential and criticised some supporters who have accused the council of operating behind closed doors.

He said: “If they were going to buy a house, would they want the world to know how they were negotiating to buy that house? I would say not. They ought to put a bit of commercial thinking into it.

“I would have thought that all they need to be interested in is the playing surface and the place they stand to watch the games.

“If I can get any businesses or activities in there that will reduce the cost of that estate I will do it, but to be open and ask the permission of the football and rugby supporters to do that - well, I think I should be asking the other 198,000 people of Calderdale before them.”