The Battle for Crossford Bridge

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The Battle for Crossford Bridge

I hope that you and your family are all well in these ongoing testing times for us all. I wanted to take this opportunity to furnish you with some facts around the last few months discussions and proposals from Sale Sharks to develop on Crossford Bridge.
 
As you may now be aware Trafford Council have formally withdrawn their support for the proposals and this will be made even more formal by the Council’s Executive Committee on Monday 28th September.
 
I wanted to take this opportunity to also provide you with some factual details that will hopefully clear up some of the PR bluster created by Sale Sharks and their PR consultants. My aim here is to re-assure you that the Club has acted in your best interest at all times during these discussions.
 
I will not apologise that it is a ‘bit of a read’ however you will find it an informative, honest and most of all factual, account of what has happened in recent months.
 
To make you aware, Crossford Bridge is managed by Crossford Bridge Management Association (CBMA), made up of Sale Harriers, Old Alts FC and Sale United FC.
 
Timeline
 
9th June – Sale Harriers were notified by online meeting requested by Trafford Council in conjunction with MC2 (Sale Sharks’ appointed PR consultancy) that there were aspirations by Sharks to return to Sale and build a ‘Community Sports Village’ on Crossford Bridge. This was the very first we were made aware of such intentions. At this stage MC2 attempted to drive a wedge between the CBMA by approaching each Club separately and promising each of us that we would benefit over the others. They clearly did not expect us to work together so strongly.
 
11th June – just 48 hours after notifying the CBMA, MC2 and Sale Sharks went public in a very big way stating they were ‘coming home’ to Sale and would be building a Stadium at Crossford. Sharks’ publicity for this included Sky Sports News, BBC Sport and local media coverage in a big way.
It turns out, unsurprisingly, that MC2 had been appointed by Sharks in October 2019 to plan their PR campaign. So immediately you can see the way that their approach was going to be, their professional PR consultants had 8 months to prepare a campaign whereas we (your merry band of volunteers) had 48 hours.
 
In the following few days a lot of meetings took place internally in the CBMA. It was agreed we would put out a joint statement with Sale Sharks and Crossford Futures. We agreed this as it then gave us 6 seats on the ‘Working Group’ which would be directly involved in the design/discussions of the development. We felt this was a key aspect of us understanding Sharks’ plans and aspirations as early as we could.
 
19th June – a meeting took place involving members of the CBMA, MC2 and Trafford Council representative. It was clear during this meeting that the development was not going to be a ‘Community Sports Village’ no matter how they spun it but it was to be a development based around a 10,000-12,000 Rugby stadium, and then they would see if they could fit us in.
 
The rest of June and July was extremely busy and saw a lot of things occurring including;
 

  • Leaflet drops to over 5,000 houses in Sale
  • Leaflet hand outs on School Road
  • BBC Radio Manchester interview
  • Meeting with Andrew Western (Leader of Trafford Council)
  • Meeting with multiple Councillors of all parties
  • Meeting with newly created Residents committee to create a joined-up approach to fighting these proposals

 
Further meetings also took place with elements of the Sharks’ wider consultant network including MC2 and also a leisure consultant. The leisure consultant was meant to ascertain the current facilities at the Club as well as the plans going forward. All this person ended up doing was undermining all we have achieved as well as going behind our back to other sporting and associated groups in Altrincham (for some reason!) to belittle us.
 
5th August – The first scheduled meeting of the Working Group took place over Zoom. The parties involved were;
 

  • CBMA members
  • Wrenbridge (stadium developers)
  • Crossford Futures (vehicle set up to push forward the proposal)
  • MC2 (Sharks’ PR consultants)
  • Leisure Consultants
  • Sharks’ appointed Architect

 
It was at this stage that solid information was exchanged and, I think, that they began to realise the size and scope of the task they had.
 
Let me provide you with some facts here. You may recall that an online consultation promoted by Crossford Futures ran from late June through July. It was there to invite as many respondents as possible to engage with their thoughts (for/against) on the proposed development. The consultation received the following;
 

  • 2,363 respondents of which 1,138 lived in M33 postcode. 
  • Of the 2,363 respondents, 1,731 were Sharks’ supporters, and only 812 of those Sharks’ fans live in M33. 
  • They also received 290 email comments, of which 124 were from M33 and 60 were Sharks fans.

 
Personally I would have expected much larger respondent numbers, especially given a petition set up by one of the residents (and mother of one of SUFC players, Catherine Perrin), gained over 4,500 online signatures.
 
This Working Group meeting also enabled us to see the initial concept designs created by the architect, which I will still keep as confidential by not sharing publicly. However I will say the following;
 

  • The stadium covered most of the current grass pitches and was situated next to the A56.
  • There were 286 (I think) car parking spaces, all for the use of Sale Sharks.
  • Sale Harriers lost their 400m track and it was replace by a 60m track
  • There was a provision for a 3G pitch, but overall lost the equivalent of a full size grass pitch. The footplate for the 3G was not to required size.
  • The space left in between pitches was insufficient in that there wouldn’t even be enough space between them to put nets up.
  • We had no car parking provided
  • No café provided
  • No building equivalent to our current office facilities
  • No storage for all equipment for all 3 Clubs
  • There was no road access on the design
  • No trees were left remaining on the site
  • None of the design was to scale

 
So you can imagine the reaction of the CBMA.
 
In the days following this initial meeting Sale Harriers worked with England Athletics (our governing body) and Sport England to provide Shark’s architect with the absolute minimum requirement that would be legally acceptable. Sale United FC and Old Alts Fc did the same via Football Foundation, supported by Cheshire FA. This information was sent to the Architect by 17th August.
The Clubs received no further dates to meet, nor any updates on amended designs, from the Working Group at any stage.
 
The PR machine was in full swing now as you may recall, promising such things as a climbing wall, healthcare, community based wellness facilities, conference and meeting facilities, adventure play area for children, all embedded in their so call ‘Community Sports Village’.
 
Their were multiple meetings and conversations with Andrew Western (Leader of the Council) to ensure that the CBMA, all our members and the local residents were involved and informed.
 
Andrew Western had remained strong on his approach to this from day one. As the Leader he has to encourage investment into the borough but he did say form the start that if the Clubs and residents were not in agreement then it would not go ahead.
 
16th Sept - The Council formally withdrew their support of the proposals meaning an end to the plans of Sharks’ to build their stadium on Crossford Bridge.
 
In the last week or so since that announcement you may have seen multiple PR angles from Sharks’ including on local TV reports. I did see an article in the Manchester Evening News which stated that the development would have brought the following;

  • A Floodlit 4g pitch
  • A new running track
  • A new sprint track
  • Grass pitches (playable all year round apparently)
  • Community Pavilion
  • Cycling and teaching hub
  • New walking and running routes
  • A café
  • Community space
  • Children’s climbing and activity centre

 
I would like to reassure every single one of you that this would have been physically impossible on Crossford Bridge! It is also worth noting that at no point did they actually mention the building of a stadium, despite all this being exactly for that reason.
 
And all of this alongside £100m investment. We still have no idea who was going to pay for all of this. Just to give you an idea of COST, not investment, it was estimated to cost them £10m-£15m to simply ready the site to build on. So their statement of £100m of investment will have been more like £100m of COST.
 
I also watched Steve Diamond (Director of Rugby at Sharks’) state on TV that the ‘Clubs would have been 10 times better off’…… I hope you can see from all this information that not only would we have been worse off but we have been misled, by-passed and simply lied to by members of the Shark’s appointed consultants.
 
What now?
 
The CBMA and residents are still working together alongside the Council now to ensure the security of Crossford Bridge for generations to come. We are working with the same aim, and that is to secure ‘Village Green’ status for Crossford Bridge.
This will stop any development taking place unless it is undertaken by the Clubs (with approval of residents and the Council), meaning we are also working towards improving the facilities for all users of the site in the coming years, including a floodlit 3G and improved athletics facilities.
 
I would like to finish by thanking you on behalf of Sale Harriers for all your incredible support during this most testing of times. The last few months have shown we have an amazing Club here, a strong relationship with the residents, a supportive Council and, most of all, you our loyal and strong members…… the reason we do it all.

Regards,

Nigel Breddy
Chairman