Leeds United have teamed up with the club’s fans with the aim of ensuring Elland Road remains at the centre of sporting life in the city for decades to come.
The ground has been added to Leeds City Council’s list of assets of community value following an application to the local authority by the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust.
Its new status means that, should a time ever arrive when Elland Road is put on the market, then its owner could be prevented from concluding a sale within six months unless it was to a community organisation such as the trust.
Having the status also helps protect Elland Road from demolition and stops it being used for any primary purpose other than as a football ground.
An asset of community value can even be compulsorily purchased by a council if its future is deemed to be under threat.
The trust’s application was supported by United, whose owner Andrea Radrizzani brought Elland Road back under club control over the summer.
Radrizzani has a long-term plan in place called Elland Road 2020 that includes improvements to the ground, which he repurchased for around £20m via United’s parent company, Greenfield Investment PTE Ltd.
Elland Road had been sold to Manchester-based businessman Jacob Adler for £8m in 2004 as the club’s board of the time tried to stave off financial disaster.
Trust chairman Dave Carrington said: “This is a very proud moment for Leeds fans everywhere. In addition to protecting Elland Road, Andrea Radrizzani has shown once again that he recognises the importance of working in partnership with the fans and the local community.”
United managing director Angus Kinnear said: “We congratulate the supporters’ trust for the hard work and dedication they have shown throughout this process, and we look forward to exciting times ahead for Leeds United and our supporters at Elland Road.”
A Leeds City Council report recommending the approval of Elland Road’s new status says its current use furthers the “social interests and social well-being of the local community”.
Council leader Coun Judith Blake today hailed United’s fans as the “heartbeat” of the club and said it was “vitally important” that they have a say in the future destiny of the ground.
The rules governing assets of community value were introduced under the Localism Act 2011.
More than 50 sites are currently on Leeds’s list of assets, including Thorp Arch & Boston Spa Cricket Club, Woodhouse’s Chemic Tavern pub and the Victory Garden allotments in Rawdon.
Football grounds in other parts of the country that are registered as assets of community value with their respective planning authorities include Anfield, Old Trafford and St James’ Park.
Elland Road was originally owned by Bentley’s Brewery and known as the Old Peacock ground, named after a nearby pub.
Leeds United moved in after their formation in 1919 and major changes to the ground were soon under way, with the Elland Road terrace being covered to create the famous Scratching Shed.
The stadium’s record attendance of 57,892 was set in 1967 for United’s FA Cup fifth round replay against Sunderland.
It has survived two fires, a 1919 plan to turn it into a brickyard and, more recently, a doomed bid to spirit the club away to a purpose-built ground five miles down the road in Stourton.
Elland Road was also sold by a cash-strapped United to Leeds City Council in 1985 for £2.5m before being bought back in 1998.