Council loses legal action against company running Airco Arena

Owners of Hull City AFC Assem Allam and his son, Ehab.
Owners of Hull City AFC Assem Allam and his son, Ehab.
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Hull Council has lost its legal action against the company running the Airco Arena in Hull.

The city council started legal proceedings against the Stadium Management Company, which runs both the Airco Arena and the KC Stadium, two months after a number of amateur sports clubs that regularly used the Walton Street venue said they had been evicted

They were given a month’s notice to quit by the SMC, which is owned by Hull City’s owners Assem Allam and his son Ehab, to make way for the installation of a new artificial 3G pitch for the use of Hull City’s Youth Academy.

The council claimed the installation of the 3G surface was a breach of the covenants of the lease and sought an order to have it removed.

However the SMC said only a small number of sports and activities had been affected and had used a removable hard cover to allow major events, including the Allam British Open Squash Championship and a National Trampolining comeptition, to continue.

Judge John Behrens heard that the sports hall had made a loss of around £235,000 in 2014, while the stadium itself was profitable.

Today in a written judgement the Judge concluded there had been no breach.

He said: “It is quite plain on the evidence that the facilities on offer are available to the community and the citizens of Kingston upon Hull on precisely the same basis as they were available before the installation of the 3G surface.”

Although the Academy had booked the facilities on three occasions, there was no evidence “that anyone who has wanted to book the facilities has been less able to do so before April 15 2015.”

SMC managing director James Deacon said: “Whilst we are pleased with the outcome, we are disappointed that Hull Council felt such proceedings were necessary, costing the local tax payer a figure the SMC believe will exceed £115,000.

“We made the council aware from the outset that the claim was entirely without merit, which Judge Behrens’ judgment confirms.

“The Airco Arena remains open for community use and now that this matter is closed, will look to continue with out efforts to turn the arena into a commercially viable facility for the benefit of people in our region.”

In a statement Hull Council said: “We are of course disappointed with the court’s decision. We considered that protecting the established community use of the Airco Arena was morally the right action.

“The court has applied a strict legal interpretation of a lease that was drafted some 12 years ago. The council did everything in its power to resolve this issue without resorting to legal action, however we were left with no alternative but to press forward with legal proceedings against the Stadium Management Company.

“The facility remains an important part of the city’s community sports provision, reflecting the reason the Council originally invested in its development, and we have a duty to safeguard that.

“Our offer to continue working with the Club and the SMC to find an appropriate long term solution remains open.”