Welcome back! York City Knights sign new community stadium deal

Back in the fold… L-R: Neil Jennings, Cllr Chris Steward, Dave Baldwin and Cllr Nigel Ayre. Photograph: City of York Council
24 Jul 2015 @ 3.37 pm
| News, Sport

York council and the city’s rugby team have kissed and made up.

Six months after what seemed like an irreconcilable breakdown, leaders of City of York Council and York City Knights have signed a new deal over the York Community Stadium.

The York Community Stadium will provide a new 8,000 seat stadium for football and rugby league, a leisure facility which will include a gym, 25 metre, six-lane swimming pool, a fun pool and training pool, as well as a new sports hall and dance studio.

Back in January, a council officer took the unprecedented step of issuing a long statement berating the Knights’ major shareholder John Guildford, and saying the council was “unable to enter back into negotiations with him on the Community Stadium development”.

At that time it seemed York City FC would be the only professional sports team involved with the new stadium.

Since then, Mr Guildford has stepped down from his role in the stadium negotiations. And a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition has taken power at the council.

And on Friday (July 24) a new partnership deal was agreed which will see the Knights playing their home games at the community stadium, as previously envisaged.

No longer homeless

Two further agreements will also sees the rugby club playing future home games at Bootham Crescent – and using the York St John’s Haxby Road facilities to train.

With the Knights’ Huntington Stadium home being dismantled, these were crucial interim measures until the community stadium is open. But both had been withdrawn after the breakdown of negotiations, leaving the club homeless.

Lib Dem Cllr Nigel Ayre, who is executive member for culture, leisure and tourism, said:

We have worked tirelessly since forming the new administration to bring the Knights back into the project and solve the issues we inherited from the failures of the outgoing Labour administration.

We have positively engaged with the club and I would like to personally thank the Knights’ Directors and all council officers involved for their efforts in recent weeks.

Time to move forward

Friends again: the three agreements being signed at York council HQ
Friends again: the three agreements being signed at York council HQ
Friends again – councillors and Knights directors sign the three agreements
Friends again – councillors and Knights directors sign the three agreements

His words were echoed by Cllr Chris Steward, Tory leader of the council, who called the agreement “excellent news”.

This gives a surer footing to professional sport and rugby league in particular in the city, which can now grow stronger.

Club directors Dave Baldwin and Neil Jennings signed the agreement on behalf of the York City Knights.

For Neil, it was a chance to move on from the off-the-field challenges and focus on the sport. He said:

On behalf of everyone at the club, we would like to thank our supporters for your ongoing support during these difficult months.

We aim to move forward and urge our supporters to back James Ford and his players as they continue their rugby aspiration to gain promotion to the championship.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new home in the near future.