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Official: York City Knights Homeless as Stadium Talks Collapse

Stadium Frontage

5:56pm 6th January 2015
(Updated 1:02am 7th January 2015)

York City Knights are officially homeless as talks with York Council over the city's new Community Stadium have collapsed.

The two sides have been involved in a legal dispute for months over an agreement for the Knights to move into the new stadium with York City in 2016.

York Council has now ruled out any further negotiations with the Knights saying it has no confidence in working with the club's chairman John Guildford.

It means the Community Stadium will not house the rugby league side, who now face playing their matches in Doncaster for the foreseeable future.

Speaking to Minster FM this morning, York City director Sophie McGill said the football club's contracts with the city council would rule out the Knights moving in with them unless they signed up.

This afternoon, York Council said it could not continue to work with John Guildford to allow the Knights to sign up to the project. Sarah Tanburn, the Interim Director for City and Environmental Services at City of York Council said:

"The Council remains strongly committed to the success of professional rugby league in York and the use of the stadium for both rugby league and football. It is with deep regret that the Council finds that it no longer has confidence in the working relationship with Mr Guildford so is unable to enter back into negotiations with him on the Community Stadium development. We share fans’, players’ and staff’s disappointment and frustration that an agreement could not be reached with Mr Guildford during the last two years.

"The Council is working with the nine long-term partners in the stadium project, who have acted in a collaborative and professional manner, to progress the development as planned. The Council has withdrawn from negotiations with Mr Guildford on the Knights involvement with the Community Stadium Development.  Any remaining correspondence is via the legal representative of both parties. Mr Guildford, during the course of the stadium development has:

o   used numerous threats of litigation and formal legal process in an attempt to better his terms.

o   lodged objections to planning submissions impeding the project’s progress.

o   made a number of serious – and unfounded – allegations towards both the authority and individual staff members.

o   made a series of misleading statements via the media.

"The Council has developed a package of agreements in negotiation with Mr Guildford over the last two years to be part of the Community Stadium development, which included arrangements for interim fixtures at Bootham Crescent and training facilities at York St John University’s new purpose built sports village. These agreements offered the Knights a fantastic range of facilities and secured a commercially sustainable future for the Knights. In September 2014 Mr Guildford agreed to these terms, then did not sign the agreements, seeking further improvement of his position. He then used formal legal process to contest his vacation from the bar at Huntington Stadium in another attempt to improve his position. At this stage the Council was forced to withdraw from negotiations to protect the financial and legal interests of the council. 

"As of 16 December 2014 Mr Guildford’s representative confirmed that Mr Guildford has ‘unreservedly withdrawn’ all allegations made recently against the Council. Despite this, given the frequent threats, change of position and brinksmanship, we no longer have the necessary confidence in the working relationship with Mr Guildford or trust in his good faith to enable negotiations with him on the Community Stadium development.

"Mr Guildford’s actions over the last two years have taken up valuable time and additional resource, at great unnecessary cost to the Council and therefore the taxpayers of York, besides risking the development of the stadium itself.

"In the interests of all the partners who continue to be committed to the Community Stadium development, we have taken the decision therefore to move forward with the project without Mr Guildford’s involvement.

"The Council would obviously not prevent Mr Guildford making alternative arrangements for the Knights with other organisations where the Council has no legal interest."

In response, York City Knights chairman John Guildford told Minster FM.

"They should rename it the "community graveyard” over 80 jobs lost a gym, pool, community social club plus facilities to play/train rugby league all lost in the last two months, that's not including Yearsley baths. By the time it's built how many more jobs and facilities will be lost?”

"It's just endorsed my original concern regarding a conspiracy, with the council trying to get me to sell to the football club. Tim Atkins, [Community Stadium] project manager has asked me on a number of occasions to sell to Jason [McGill of York City], so it appears that's now the council's new objective.”

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