My vision for the Shay: Businessman hoping to buy stadium vows to safeguard futures of Halifax Town and Halifax RLFC

Tony Abbot
Tony Abbot

The owner of the company in the running to own The Shay has outlined his vision for the stadium and vowed to ensure the future of both the football and rugby clubs.

Tony Abbott, pictured right, is leading the bid, from his Elland-based firm Reactiv Media Ltd, which is currently being considered by Calderdale Council.

Shay Stadium

Shay Stadium

In an exclusive interview with the Courier Mr Abbott said he is hopeful of reducing rent for FC Halifax Town and Halifax RL if his 
bid is successful.

However, there has been some unrest - notably among Halifax Town supporters - online with people expressing concerns over private ownership on Twitter and other social media.

Mr Abbott said: “I hear the concerns but I can’t see any negative about this. It would be nothing like it is now - this wouldn’t be dependent on millions of pounds of loans - financially The Shay wouldn’t be under any more risk than it is now.

“It has to be more than just The owner of the company in the running to own The Shay has outlined his vision for the stadium and vowed to ensure the future of both the football and rugby clubs.

a sports facility. The council has done a massive job but what it is not committed to doing is investing millions to develop the stadium and make it the heart of the community.

“I plan to reduce the rents for both clubs and ensure that we have a system where more people through the gate means more money for the clubs.

“We want to give long term security to the clubs and would back this up with 99-year leases.”

Mr Abbott, who is CEO of Halifax RL, also describes himself as a massive football fan who regularly attends Halifax Town game while his son is a season ticket holder.

He even revealed that he tried to sponsor recent football matches but his money had been turned down by football officials.

“This whole thing started when I used to pull into the car park and see the ground unfinished. I went and asked the council if I could buy the end of the East Stand to finish it and by the end of the meeting it was prudent to put a bid in for the ground. This has taken 18 months to get to the stage,” he said.

While formal plans are due to be issued shortly Mr Abbott gave an insight into his vision for the stadium which will include a raft of investment.

“Certainly we want to finish the East Stand and develop the north and south stands. We would look at bringing in certain shops, a cafe, nursery and a gym for both clubs to be able to use,” he said.

“People currently working at the Shay have nothing to worry about. I’m hopeful if all this goes ahead that we will be able to create between 300 and 400 jobs.”

Calderdale Council’s leader, Coun Tim Swift, said: “Calderdale Council is carefully considering the offer that has been made. Our priority in examining this or any other proposal will be to guarantee the community status of the stadium and ensure the future of the two sports clubs within it.”

Gavin Butler from the Halifax Town Supporters’ Trust explained some of the concerns raised by Halifax Town supporters. He said: “First and foremost we want to try and delay any potential sale of the stadium. We have to question how the sale of a public asset such as the Shay can be done through the backdoor. The fact that it is home to two sporting clubs naturally means there is a greater deal of emotion involved. It is important therefore that wider consultation is made with all options looked at before any decision over its future is made.

“As a Calderdale resident there are concerns about the value of any potential sale especially given that only a few years ago many millions of pounds of public money were spent on the East Stand development. If the Shay is for sale has it been advertised to gauge interest and secure the best deal for the borough?

“Both clubs have a real chance to flourish if the stadium remains under stable and public ownership, the same cannot be said if it is owned by a 3rd party or, perhaps, either directly or indirectly, by one of the current tenants.

“Private ownership could be bad for both clubs. There isn’t enough information available to totally discount private ownership as a good thing but there are many examples of where stadia under private ownership has let to the demise of a sporting club leading to a significant loss to the community.

“Whilst a private owner may start with genuine aspirations and sincere intentions, people change as do circumstances and there can be no guarantees with regards the future.”

Halifax Town’s directors were approached but were unavailable for comment at the time of printing.