Sharks’ Crossford Bridge vision fizzle out

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Sale Shark English Rugby club new stadium Image: AJ Bell Stadium (Twitter)

Though the English Premiership rugby union club Sale Sharks had signaled its intention to return ‘home’ to a new stadium planned as part of a sports village development in Trafford (UK), but the same did not materialize after the Council said it would not support them following public outcry.

Proposals for the ground included investment of around £100m. The premiership team would have moved to Crossford Bridge playing fields – a park in Sale, England.

Sale Sharks is a professional rugby union club from Greater Manchester, England. They play in the Premiership Rugby, England’s top division of rugby. Originally founded in 1861 as Sale Football Club, now a distinct amateur club, they adopted the nickname ‘Sharks’ in 1999. Their home ground is the AJ Bell Stadium in Eccles, England.

Crossford Bridge Community Sports Village was an early stage vision for an inclusive and accessible sporting hub in Sale (Trafford, England). Proposals included improved facilities for local community sports and wellbeing groups, collaboration with sporting governing bodies, as well as a multisport community stadium. Crossford Bridge Community Sports Village was an initiative of Crossford Futures.

If things would have gone the Sharks way, they intended to bring their elite men’s and women’s teams back to their hometown, along with the Sharks Community Trust which delivers health, education and social inclusion programs. This would see the North of England’s only Premiership rugby union club move from its current base in Salford, back to where it began in Trafford.

Town hall bosses in 2020 end that they will not support the plans following a public consultation. This decision comes after scores of people raised concerns as they felt the development would have led to the loss of green space, traffic snarls, noise and potential pollution. Thousands of people urged the town hall authorities to hunt for another site.

Members of grassroots sports clubs which also use the site – including athletics club Sale Harriers, Sale United Football Club and Old Altrinchamians football club – said they were worried about their futures.

Proposals for ‘Crossford Bridge Community Sports Village’ included a floodlit 4G pitch, a running track, a sprint track, a community pavilion, a cycling and teaching hub, new walking and running routes, a café, community space, and a children’s climbing and activity center.

More than 2,500 people responded to the first phase of the consultation.

Council leader Andrew Western remarked, “Trafford Council, along with Crossford Futures and Sale Sharks, approached the pre-planning application consultation for Crossford Bridge Community Sports Village with the shared aim to listen closely to the views of our local community and ensure every voice was heard.”

Western added, “Following the initial phase of consultation, we have taken the decision not to support the proposal. We would however like to acknowledge the professionalism and transparency of Crossford Futures and Sale Sharks throughout this process, especially their willingness to listen and work collaboratively with the whole community. We share with Sale Sharks a desire to see them back in Sale in the future if a suitable site can be found.”

Simon Orange, owner of Sale Sharks, commented, “Our fan base in Sale and beyond have been extraordinary in the support they have shown throughout this initial consultation. Our shared vision was to create a multisports community hub to inspire future generations and positively impact Sale through additional health, education and social inclusion programs. We would like to thank every fan, resident, sponsor and business who has invested significant time in helping to shape these plans.”

Added Orange, “This consultation has given us even more confidence in our future ambitions. We have made no secret that our long-held ambition is to return our elite men’s and women’s teams to our home town of Sale, and to further strengthen our community ties. Although disappointed by this political decision in the short term, we look forward to delivering a solution in the future that puts our great fan base and City region at the heart of it.”

Graham Young, Director at Crossford Futures, stated, “We would like to thank every one of the thousands of residents, business leaders, councilors and sports club members that took part in the initial consultation. Whilst we understand the political decision that has been taken, we are extremely disappointed that we will not be able to share the detailed plans that we have been developing over the last few months – we know many members of the local community were looking forward to seeing these.”

Young concluded, “We are convinced that these plans would have attracted support throughout Sale and the wider borough, especially as they support the aspirations and address the concerns raised in the initial consultation. We are hopeful that the thinking developed during this wide-ranging consultation will not be wasted and will come to benefit the community and Sale Sharks at some point in the future.”

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