Barnsley FC approached Bradford City over ground share as fears grow for club’s future at Oakwell - Exclusive

BARNSLEY contacted Bradford City earlier this year about the prospect of a potential ground-share at the Utilita Energy Stadium, The Yorkshire Post understands.

The Reds hierarchy are understood to have discussed the potential for formal talks with the Bantams at several junctures last season regarding the feasibility of relocating away from Oakwell in the future – but nothing ultimately materialised.

In January, The Yorkshire Post revealed that Barnsley had also spoken last season with another Yorkshire club in Rotherham United about the possibility of a future groundsharing project.

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Barnsley also reportedly approached other EFL clubs in 2020-21 – including two in Lancashire – about potentially hosting the club’s matches, with their long-term future at Oakwell remaining unclear.

Paul Conway: Barnsley’s co-chairman said in August club had abandoned plans to buy stadium. (Picture Scott Merrylees)

Speaking in August, co-chairman Paul Conway confirmed that the club had abandoned plans to purchase the ground and intended to stay on as tenants, but did not rule out the prospect of relocation if the ground is not modernised.

In October, the club controversially decided to close the 130-year-old West Stand to spectators until further notice, citing safety concerns and crowd management issues as the reasons behind the decision.

The move affected 1,000 season-ticket holders. A number relocated to other parts of Oakwell, but some asked for refunds.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council – who hold a fifty-per cent stake of Oakwell alongside the Cryne family – expressed disappointment at the decision of the club to shut down the West Stand and said that the facility passed an inspection by the local authority in September.

A general view of Oakwell (Picture: PA)

The club have stressed that their primary goal is to stay at Oakwell and positive discussions have been recently held to that effect with Barnsley MBC officials, it is understood.

The Reds hierarchy are committed to a positive relationship with the council going forward, according to sources close to the club.

Back in January 2020, the Reds’ majority shareholders exercised an option to buy the half-share of Oakwell owned by the Cryne family – who still retain a 20 per cent shareholding in the club – but subsequently raised a number of concerns.

Speaking about the Oakwell situation in late summer, Conway said: “If we are caught in a situation where we can’t use the ground without not getting a (stadium) licence, we have to keep alternatives out there. That is the right thing to do for any club, but the goal is to stay here.

A general view of the Utlilita Ennergy Stadium (Picture: PA)

“We still have six years to go on it (Oakwell lease). We need to generate more revenue which allows us to be more competitive.

“Some of our revenue generation is limited by the facilities and all the supporters will know that.

“We are working with the Council and hope it comes to a good resolution, but need to see some capital improvements. We were willing to put it in ourselves, but could not get clean title on it.

“Last year, during the pandemic, the investment group put in millions into escrow as part of buying the stadium. Our goal was buying the stadium and a big part of the reason why we invested in the club.

“Simply, we cannot get clean title on the ground. Similar to if you are renting a house and you want to purchase that house, you want to get clean and clear title on it. And we can’t – and we can’t get title insurance either.

“So the club has abandoned the attempt to purchase the ground, so we are a tenant here.”

Barnsley are in action this evening in new head coach Poya Asbaghi’s first match in charge against visiting Swansea City at Oakwell.

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