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Action Replay: Reds in the Red

Salford is the largest city in England without a professional football club. You might think that the proximity to Manchester more than made up for this, but it also has something Manchester lacks, a professional rugby league team, currently known as Salford City Reds (it used to have two, but Swinton Lions are at present playing at Leigh’s ground because of their own financial problems).

Last year Reds left their stadium at the Willows to move to a new ground, the Salford City Stadium at Barton, a brownfield site near the River Irwell. The stadium was built as a joint venture between Salford Council and Peel Holdings, the largest property investment company in the UK (they also own the Manchester Ship Canal and Liverpool Airport). The stadium, currently shared with rugby union club, Sale Sharks, actually belongs to Peel, and optimistic comparisons were made between the Reds’ move to Barton and Manchester City’s move to their new Eastlands stadium and the investment that attracted.

But all did not go well. Blame has been attached to the general economic recession, to overinvestment in new players, and to failure to attract large enough crowds; whatever the reason, Salford got into financial difficulties and had their bank account frozen, though the chairman insisted it was just ‘a short-term cash flow problem’. In December Salford Council rejected a £1.5m rescue plan.

At the time of writing, the club owe money to ex-players and to Revenue & Customs. A hearing to wind them up was due to be held in early January but was adjourned until 4 February, just after the new league season starts. A millionaire racehorse owner has now emerged as a potential buyer.

So it looks like another example of an enterprise aiming too high, failing to achieve its targets and so possibly going out of business. A familiar story in sport and other areas of the economy.