Sale to merge with Stockport
May 2, 2003

Ambitious Sale Sharks agreed to a merger with Second Division soccer neighbours Stockport County.

The two clubs will be run as equal partners under a new parent company, Cheshire Sport Ltd, from July 18, with Sale making the seven-mile move to Edgeley Park from the start of next season.

Stockport chairman Brendan Elwood, one of three directors of the Nationwide League club, has agreed to sell his majority shareholding to the new company but will continue to run the club until the handover and then join the new board.

The merger is the brainchild of Sale's wealthy owner Brian Kennedy, who has helped transform the fortunes of the Cheshire club he bought three years ago.

The move, hailed at a news conference at Edgeley Park, will secure the long-term future of both clubs, according to Niels de Vos, the current Sale chief executive who will hold the same position in the new company.

"The increased commercial potential that Cheshire Sport creates will be used for the benefit of both clubs," said de Vos, who was commercial director of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Today's announcement ends Sale's three-year search for a new home - they considered moving into Manchester City's soon-to-be-vacated Maine Road ground and held talks with Bury - and Kennedy believes the club's fans will back the move.

"We had to move on from Heywood Road and, once the fans experience the atmosphere, they will love it," he said.

"This is a very exciting day for Sale."

While Heywood Road has proved something of a fortress for Sharks in recent times - their last home league defeat was against Leicester almost 18 months ago - its tiny capacity of 5,700 has hampered progress off the field.

The club will post the "house full" signs for the seventh time this season against Wasps but at Edgeley Park will be able to draw crowds of up to 11,000 and more than double their corporate income.

Heywood Road, Sale's home for a century, will continue to be owned by the club's members and be used as a venue for second team matches.

Interestingly, the club are to revert to their full name of Sale Sharks after officially being known as Sharks this season.

In moving to Edgeley Park, they will follow Premiership rivals Wasps, Saracens, London Irish and Bristol Shoguns, who all currently play at football stadia.

But Sale, who will continue to play their home games on Friday nights, are to look into the possibility of re-introducing a standing area to the all-seater stadium.

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