Its name suggests a city coming together to play, watch and enjoy sport. But York Community Stadium is fast running out of community spirit.
Work should start to build the 8,000 seat stadium and leisure complex at Monks Cross, Huntington, later this year. The idea is to provide a sparkling new home for both the York City football and York City Knights rugby league clubs.
But City of York Council announced on Tuesday (January 6) that it will no longer negotiate with York City Knights chairman John Guildford. Any future correspondence will be via the lawyers.
Why? In a statement Sarah Tanburn, the interim director for city and environmental services at the council, said that the council no longer has confidence in the working relationship with Mr Guildford.
She said that Mr Guildford has:
lodged objections to planning submissions impeding the project’s progress
made a number of serious – and unfounded – allegations towards both the authority and individual staff members
made a series of misleading statements via the media.
York City Knights’ 25-year home – council-owned Huntington Stadium – is to be demolished to make way for the new arena.
With their lease ended, Knights were to ground share with York City FC at their Bootham Crescent home until the community stadium was ready.
But Mr Guildford said this pledge was watered down to a promised stay of only two years at Bootham Crescent. That potentially would have left the Knights homeless in the event of a delay to the new stadium’s opening date of 2016.
The club took legal action and now the arrangement that the Knights could play at Bootham Crescent – and train at York St John University’s new sports facilities – has been withdrawn.
‘All is well’ – or not…
As recently as December 1, 2014 John Guildford had assured fans that “all is currently well at the club“.
“I’m sure it will be fine, though. The council’s enforcement department have been advised of the breach and are investigating this and we are optimistic that it will be resolved satisfactorily.”
But then a friendly match between York City Knights and Hull FC – due to take place at Bootham Crescent this Sunday (January 11) – had to be moved to the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster.
In a statement, Homeless Knights forced out of York, the club said the move would cost it £10,000.
A club spokesman said:
“We are optimistic that the issues can be resolved very quickly once the council confirms when we can meet.”
Council breaks its silence
The council kept quiet until today’s unprecedented named attack on John Guildford.
This is their response:
“These agreements offered the Knights a fantastic range of facilities and secured a commercially sustainable future for the Knights.
“In September 2014 Mr Guildford agreed to these terms, then did not sign the agreements, seeking further improvement of his position.
“He then used formal legal process to contest his vacation from the bar at Huntington Stadium in another attempt to improve his position. At this stage the council was forced to withdraw from negotiations to protect the financial and legal interests of the council.”
– Sarah Tanburn
The council said it was informed on December 16 that Mr Guildford had “‘unreservedly withdrawn’ all allegations made recently against the council”.
– council statement
Clubs at loggerheads
In response to the council’s statement, Mr Guildford told the Press that:
And he tweeted:
How many more lies will YCFC and the council make up to ensure we are forced out of business. We have NEVER negotiated with ycfc FACT.
— John Guildford (@johnycknights) January 6, 2015
Last month York City FC agreed with City of York Council a long term tenancy at the new stadium.
That followed an August deal which made the football club responsible for operating and managing the stadium, and the conferencing and hospitality for the first 13 years.
That led to this tweet from York City Knights:
What lengths will the cyc go to ?to justify giving all the income from hospitality to ycfc too cover their debts. Rob Peter to pay Paul. .
— York City Knights (@YorkKnightsRLFC) January 6, 2015
This is what Sophie McGill, York City’s community and communications director, said in response the latest developments:
“We have always planned for York City Knights to play at Bootham Crescent and this is still firmly our position. However, we are only willing to look at this option further if York City Knights are under different ownership.”
Rugby fans have not been impressed by the council’s approach to the Knights.
Absolutely horrendous treatment from York City Council towards @YorkKnightsRLFC. Hope everything gets sorted, horrible situation.
— Daniel Fowler (@DanFowler97) January 4, 2015
— Annette Wilson (@ANN377S) January 4, 2015
— Gavin Wilson (@GavWilson) January 4, 2015
— Jason Grant (@Grant706) January 4, 2015
But the council says it “remains strongly committed to the success of professional rugby league in York and the use of the stadium for both rugby league and football”.