Tigers bite back after council turns its tail

Castleford Tigers crowd against Wigan Warriors
Castleford Tigers crowd against Wigan Warriors

Castleford Tigers’ bosses have suffered a blow after council chiefs pulled the plug on support for the club’s stadium plans.

The Express can exclusively reveal Wakefield Council has retracted its offer of £2m worth of land assets to both Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Wildcats’ community trust to help upgrade facilities and meet Super League criteria.

Coun David Dagger, cabinet member responsible for sport, said recent talks with the Wheldon Road club had broken down and the offer of support had expired.

He said: “We recently met Steve Ferres, who is now the former chief executive of Castleford Tigers, Richard Wright and the club’s development partners to get an update on their plans for the development of a new stadium.

“We asked the club to outline in detail their proposals for a new stadium at Glass Houghton, including both time scales and cost, as well as providing an alternative should a new stadium prove to be undeliverable.

“To date we have had no response.”

Coun Dagger said the council’s cabinet committee made a conditional offer of support for development of a new community stadium at Glass Houghton both in 2009 and 2010.

He said: “The conditions have not been met and the time period for the offer has expired.

“In light of the council’s changing financial position and until the club or trust have developed specific proposals, it is not possible for us to identify if we are able to offer any support in the future.”

The news comes just two weeks after Tigers’ chief executive Steve Ferres stepped down from the role, saying he believed the board was not in a position to support the “multitude of changes” that he felt needed to happen to move the club forward. 
His departure was followed by the resignation of commercial manager, Nick Fozzard, who resigned alongside his wife Sarah, a week after Ferres had left the club.

But Richard Wright, director and member of the club’s stadium steering project group, responded to the council’s statement by vowing to finalise their stadium plans.

He said: “We did meet Wakefield Council representatives at the beginning of February and the subject of their £2m offer was discussed.

“We were told that the council would do what they could to support us and they asked that we deliver detailed proposals to them for all our options and we are currently working these up.

“We do not know yet, what level of funding can be generated, so we are developing a number of options in some detail and once finished we intend to present these to the council.

“However, with all our options the council’s support and matched contribution of £2m is key to a successful outcome for the club, the Tigers Trust and the local community.”

Mr Wright said the stadium development would not just help the club, but would improve community links and boost the economy.

He added: “We are mindful of the difficulties the council is facing at this time, but this is not just about helping a local rugby league club, it is about investment and jobs and providing a major community facility that benefits not only the town but the wider local area.

“This is why over 20,000 people signed the petition for the food store on Wheldon Road and I know the council would want to show its support for this community.

“If we can achieve our aims the council’s investment would be around community facilities and will look like money well spent.”

In 2010, Tigers bosses revealed they had signed a deal with Opus Land (North) Ltd to build a “large format food store” on its ground to fund a new £12m stadium at Glass Houghton.

Andrew Duncan, managing director of Opus, told the Express last March the Super League side was finalising a contract to sell the Wheldon Road site to a retailer – believed to be Tesco – to meet the Rugby Football League’s (RFL) stadium requirements.

But in October, Steve Ferres told supporters at Castleford Civic Centre the club needed to look at alternative stadium options, including re-development of the existing Wheldon Road site, after the RFL relaxed its Super League requirements.

Mr Wright said: “At this point in time, it is still not possible to give further clarity on our plans, as our negations with a range of stakeholders relating to both Glass Houghton and Wheldon Road are subject to confidentiality agreements.

“Throughout all this, we remain grateful to our development partner, Opus, and their advisors for their continued actions, resolve and support.

“We are hopeful of making a public announcement in the not too distant future, through the Express, once the formal legal contracts are signed.”